Friday, November 19, 2010

Warren Lloyd, "Basinski & Voice"

Warren Lloyd

Basinski: The Re-Emergence of voice

“Poetic accomplishment,” says Jed Rasula, “is a threat, specifically the threat implied by an accomplice, a sacred share.”[i] Poetic inspiration, from the beginning, has been a matter of prosthesis, a double negative proposition made of and by the material through which such inspiration takes place. Language, Rasula argues, is responsible for Poetry’s Voice-Over—long before the many modes of technological prosthesis which have come to construct, with overabundance, the last quarter century with technologies of voice reproduction and what Rasula calls “Cybernetics.” Citing the legacy of the Muses and Hesiod, Rasula traces inspirational and subjective augmentation to the early utterances of poetic authority. Descending Mt. Helicon, the Olympian Muses, “daughters of Aegis-Holding Zeus,” spoke to Hesiod saying “we know how to say many false things, similar to genuine ones, but we know, when we wish how to proclaim true things,” so they “breathed a divine voice into me so that I might glorify what will be and what was before.”[ii] This classic moment of divine authorization is from the outset a paradoxical and indeterminate shuttering between the positive and the negative; the timbre of voice scratching into the world of mortals is—before it is first said—an activity of “Possession and dispossession,” which “are intertwined in the Muses bestowal of voice-over to the poet’s personal voice.”[iii] The notion of inspiration as a technologically constructed prosthesis—as a voice-over—reduces divine authority to the affect of the subject uttering.

I would like to read the poetry and poetics of Michael Basinski as an aesthetic project of linguistic, acoustic and optical processes enacting a poetics of the voice-over, which (in its dynamic persistence toward openness and inclusion, its innovative reconfiguration of temporality and technology) comprises the material frame-work for a re-appropriation of affect, which (emergent within the critical sector of communication, within what Hardt and Negri call Empire) enacts a critical  methodology within the struggle of what they also deem the multitude against Empire. The shift from traditional international law, defined by treaties and contracts, toward a new notion of a sovereign supranational right—the incongruencies between an ever totalizing ethico-juridicial power and the myriad of ontological tensions that arise during the production and utilization of such power, over and against an ever increasing multitude—is what defines Empire.[iv]

The inevitable critique to these claims will be similar to ‘voices’ conceptualizing autonomy, purity and exclusion. Foucault and new historicism have amply shown how bio-political power has implemented control through every mode of society with self-regulating subjects and subjectivities both creating and created by such power; but to assume that “Such a biotechnical mind is no longer congruent with a voice, so the specificity of the speaking subject gives way to a ventriloquial mimicry…”[v] is to deny the corporeality of all individual subjectivity and to assume a symmetrical relationship across all  human affect—a grand hyperbole numb to the multiplicities of media-centric, digitally enhanced, cross-planer, affect; numb to the increasing power of postmodern subjectivity within the multitude, a multitude that has become increasingly more central to Empire’s power, while also becoming more mobile.  Mike Basinski’s work re-calibrates the voice-over to enable the emergence of the voice of the multitude.
Possession: Massaging / Messaging the Opening RE-Possessing HisStory

From the outset, as Rasula reminds us, poetic inspiration and its attendant language is a matter of “Possession and dispossession.” To sacrifice voice to a language that is not the creative embodiment of the flesh voicing, recreates the first sacrifice of Christianity—the gift of death[vi]—pure assimilation to a transcendental power in the name of responsibility.

The possession of the sacred space between the mind and the mouth, just prior to utterance, is not something that can easily take place unmediated in the realm of bio-political capitalism. This space was especially sacred to authority during the mediaeval period, when people’s servitude was less policed and so the diligence and duty of responsibility was fused into faith—that singular mode of self-regulation. As Jacques Derrida points out

Somewhat in the manner of Levinas [Patočka] warns against the experience of the sacred as an enthusiasm or fervor for fusion, cautioning in particular against a form of demonic rapture that has as its effect, and often as its first intention, the removal of responsibility. (GoD/1)

Patočka asserts that before religion can be religion the demonic must be suppressed, and then integrated, into an economy of responsibility. “The daemon crosses the boundaries of the Human, the animal and the Divine.”[vii] The demon is here a feared passage—raw motion—an unwritten proximity, a shifter-- animated by the libido: aliquid, bonum, verum, ens, unum [viii]--- the secret of Sound, in Potentia, threatening to possess the multitude: potentially Possessed sound before it is anything else, because it arrives in mysterious secrecy. [ix] 
The secrecy between the self and the self--- the sacred sound of the singular mind. And so it is the early goal of Christianity to integrate this potential ruse into an economy of sacrifice, a sacrifice easily equated to the operations of Grammar and Language--- to the goal of the Word,  which seeks the sacrifice of the voice (as the multitude)  to Voice: Capitalized--- determined singular, responsible.

In Responsibility’s name Abraham raised his arm to behead Isaac, his son--- his mirrored subjectivity--- the literal embodiment of his voice --- at the last minute, angels descended and as a reward for his sheer faith and responsibility, his son was spared. But only as the effect of his total and complete sacrifice. But like the voice whose communication is only a “tacit form of bereavement, in so far as it is an active reminder of how we perpetuate our own captivity,”[x] his son, like the voice resigned to total disembodiment or ineffectiveness in biopower, is not completely his own—guided by a negative dialectic with power.

The poetics of Michael Basinski seeks no sacrifice, offers no gift, nor does it demand responsibility. And this is primarily because of the multitude from which it begins, -- “The poem begins with a multitude,”[xi] In order for his poetry to effectively operate it must be possessed. The strength and vitality of its meanings are reciprocal to the intensity and immanence of his work’s  readers’, performers’ and recitranslators’, inhabitation, co-habitation and incorporation into presence, into life.

What becomes central to the sound generated by Basinski’s formulation of what he calls “The New Concrete” is “The multiplicity of images, strings of vowels, interpretations, etc. [which] result in an instant ad-lib aural reading, and improvisational rendering,” and their strength lies in their “aural potential and the immediate creation in translation…” Basinski’s manuscripts and visual poems require possession, ideally multiple possession.

As Rasula invokes with Hesiod and the Muses, and Derrida with Abraham’s sacrifice, so too does Basinski invoke the mythopoesis of the sacred space of the mind just prior to speech. However, as it is Basinski’s goal to have his poems entered, inhabited, performed—possessed, when entering Basinski’s lexicographic morphisms, authority is everywhere and anywhere put through a process of opening, apprehending any space of divinity for the projection of the colloquial voice of the multitude speaking their improvisatory speech:

sleep secret place/ an Amen hidden/ religion/ of the AbysssA blis/ I biss one/ cycle oned/ anthournot end/ and/ am to discover/ juice ice to/ fidelity the farmer/ in the dell dwell/ Delphi ame amell/ amen firm a Ment/ constant please/ please nof an hair / hord/ breath thorn an hu/ ane one.  (Funginni)

While the pages of Basinki’s poetry are populated by morphemes, words, syllables, graphemes and hand -wrought words and pictures, to name only a few attributes, his poems are meant to be performed, spoken, voiced, recitranslated every time---- not only read in silence. They emerge and re-emerge, emerge and re-emerge again as re-appropriated affect.

The separation of voice from the gramma of its imposed logic is everywhere (non) present in the operations of Basinki’s poetry. In fact, throughout the manuscript of Funginii one can read repetitive references back to medieval pronominal inhabitations—inhabitations that were then seen as originary transferences of voice, into Voice– through the shifting of pronouns, into the service of the Word, for an official religiosity. In the Basinski passage just referenced, for instance, one can discern the mythological presence of Isis, Ibis, Delphi, ‘amen’ upwards of four times, depending on how deviant one is, ‘please’ at least twice and references to ‘man’ at least as often as ‘amen.’ This massaging of the opening, this messaging at the opening between the divine and man, this pleading, this telling, this attempt at a “firm a Ment,” this negative abyss filled with this “hord/ breath” can be seen as an attempt to relinquish written authority to the power of the speaking voice, which can be and ideally would be anyone and everyone—the multitude in potentia.

Basinski’s Funginii also enacts a mythico--historical process of praxis which does two forceful things. The first: it animates mythico-history  to be just what it is – a linguistic construct occurring in real time and real space, and second: history here, etymologically spore---(ified) is shown to be a process of dissemination, growth  and meant to be re-possessed by the affect of the speaker and the receiver, in praxis, as voicing.

More HisStory

Much controversy took place over the secret space between the Word and the reader when the bible was translated into the vulgate by Wyclif. The medieval pronoun was thought to signify pure being, that which stood before and beyond any and every signification; the pronouns ens, unum, aliquid, bonum, and verum came to be known as transcendencia “because they cannot be contained in or defined by any higher category, as such they constitute the maxime scriblia, that which is already known and said in any received or named object, and beyond which nothing can be predicated or known.”[xii] Therefore ens and unum signify “that which is already said in every utterance by the very fact of saying it.” Here we have the material presence of voice conceptually, logically, linked with universality—God.

Pronouns were only understood to take on determination through Demonstratio and relatio.[xiii] So it is of no wonder that this sacred space of secrecy, where one’s voice enters one’s thoughts, before utterance, was a much contested space in the history of Voice, the Word, and Religion. Basinski’s is a goal of reversal: to demonstrate the speaking voice in relatio to the creation of voice. To break the Word--- into waaaa, oh, ok, ooooooo, rrrrr, are you kidding me? D, ddd Damn right woahh Arttie! Who’s Artie? Into vaaa OOO ice. A vat of Ice, you say? Voice melting into voice, everywhere—Rasula’s voice writing, speaking Heideggar’s voice: “We do not possess or subsume language but are always ‘on our way to language.’” Possession, then, is of the voice, multiply speaking—the deconstruction of Voice, Capital, Empire.

More HisStory

In the case of Wyclif, the sacred space, so feared, so possessed, between thought and utterance, was no-space to be occupied by the indeterminate subjectivities of the common vulgate:  the voice of the multitude—when to utter ens or unum essentially meant speaking so close to God as to be demonstrated by and created in relation to His Voice—the Word. Here, already we have the sheer force of voice as representative of the multitude and the beginnings of a political technology designed to extricate sovereign power from it, to transform it into Voice in Capital, Singular,  in the Word, as the Word of God, eventually to the King, Nation, the Sovereign.

Excommunication was Wycliff’s impending fear, and as Giorgio Agamben concludes in Language and Death: here we have “the fiction of a beginning; that which is excluded from the community is, in reality, that on which the entire life of the community is built”—a justification for violence, sacrifice and murder.

This justification is rendered today as one of the central tenets of Empire. Much of what defines Empire is the over-determined sense of impending police power and the paradoxical cultural high-jacking in the name of “just war”, which “involves the banalization of war and the celebration of it as an ethical instrument.”[xiv] Ethics and all its attendant history and moralization require a stable, determinate object to define itself, an inside and an outside, an enclosure of the self and an other.

The manuscript of Funginii is anything but singular, determinate or closed. Text is typed in columns, comprised of words, graphemes, morphemes, word processing symbols, dingbats and open space -- and they often give-way to explosive organic hand-wrought drawings of words, shapes, rhythms and directions. The secret, sacred space in the mind of the reader, or audience member, or performer is the same space that brought the vulgate into proximity with God. The same space of voice spoken for the history of Voice, Capitalized, for the Word, the place of what Derrida calls “mysterium tremendum: the mystery, the dread, fear and trembling of the Christian experience of the sacrificial gift— is in the work of Basinski a place of becoming multiple, becoming daemon— over and against the terrifying seizure of one at the moment of becoming a person, only in paralysis, “in [one’s] very singularity, by the gaze of God. Then [one] sees [oneself] seen by the gaze of another, a supreme, absolute and inaccessible being who holds us in his hand not by exterior but by interior force.”

Basinski’s poetry awaits interior possession; at the pronominal, morphemic level-- exorcism would be genocide. “The voice is encouraged to engage the cult of poet as inspired idiot prior to first breathe. Could be arranged for multiple voices as band of idiots.”

enenאאnnen  (Funginnii)

Inside and Outside

What the mediaeval example of theologicians scrambling to adhere authority to spoken language shows us, has been equally laid bare by Derrida’s idea of  the auto-affectiveness of presence, an auto-effectiveness of presence that is always indeterminate and subject to temporality, and “once it is admitted that auto-affection is the condition for self-presence, no pure transcendental reduction is possible.”[xv] When one speaks, one hears one’s self. The voice, upon speech, is always already gone when spoken, penetrated by time and the world around us.  Presence is always divided and “in this pure difference is rooted the possibility of everything we think we can exclude from auto-affection: space, the outside, the world, the body, etc.”[xvi] The medieval example of pronominal trancendentia renders voice unspoken as universal potential and the auto-affectiveness of presence, illustrates that no transcendence is possible in the act of speech, in the act of voice—in language.  Language, then, graphically rendered, is the negative place marker for what can only occur in real time, in real presence in historification’s praxis. People become subjects in language, speaking, like the genome or a fungus (funginii) always in conjunction with the environment, in fact,   in, and of community--- and writing, if it is anything, is neutral, a space holder for the potential presence of a subject in speech.

Basinski is acutely aware of the original neutrality[xvii] of naming and it is his goal to have his poetry work in relation to its performers and its audience becoming present in voice.[xviii]

In an attempt to follow the request of a publisher to supply a “name in written language” for a poem/book which Basinski submitted for publication, entitled with a series of printer dingbats and symbols that look similar to a repeating vvvvvv with a bird- type dingbat next to it--- after a long process of etymological deconstruction and association, he settled on the title Un Nome. Immediately the Latin shifter unum is raised; putting the poem in proximity with its performer or its audience--- in relatio.  However, the logic of the poet himself shows that he was interested, at first, in over-naming the poem, that is, following all the etymological associations as they arose in connection with the visual image, and then, second, in the much more practical process of un-naming the poem— “I suggested to Bob Grumman that the book should be titled Un Nome (un-name—sort of un-hinge).”[xix] What is important here, and also an overriding principal in all of Basinski’s poetry and poetics is a process of movement—a movement of un-naming, which produced a “newly generated etymology, an etymology that demanded immediate spontaneous etymological creation, definition and creation by me, the poet, in recitranslation, and demanded the audience or reader understand that the creative activity did not result in a product on the page but in the creation of a state of imagination. This state would change with every recitranslation.”

This process of etymological un-folding and re-folding is a process that occurs in relation to what Basinski refers to as his “Rosetta forms” which includes his own hieroglyphics, symbols and “frozen text” which puts the etymological movement in historical proximity to “sentimental” and “romantic” traditions. This, however, is no effort to re-authorize some sense of the singular “I”, but rather an effort to do at least two important things that put his work in line with a productive methodology within Empire, as the multitude struggling, rather than with failed attempts at purity, in either concrete poetry, with its art historical elite impenetrability—what Basinski calls “silent sculptures in a concrete garden”[xx]or sound poetry’s abandonment of the word, for the sake of sheer expulsion.

First, it roots Basinski’s work in the traditions of its history: “romantic” “frozen text” and it requires that the New Concrete should “remain anchored slavishly to words.”[xxi] This allows for a reappropriation of the history of linguistic authority, which has already been discussed as enabling a contradictory ethics of exclusion—murder, then death. Requiring that the work stay “slavishly” connected to the word suggests that re-possession will only first be possible through the reappropriation of the word—central to the communicative power of Empire— and furthers the assertion that “the only power available to struggles is that of a constituent counter-power that emerges from within Empire.” [xxii] In its real presence, which as has been shown, can only occur in flesh multiply becoming voice, the word works for Basinski, divided by, and in relatio to, the environment of its constituent becoming and the temporality of the multitude. This requirement of the word makes Basinski’s poetry a pragmatic extension of Sound Poetry whose goal was purity—the total and complete expulsion of the word, which within Empire posits an outside which today is indiscriminate from an inside. The second thing Basinski’s symbolism—printer dingbats and hand- drawn word pictures, does is enable a variable and variant temporality with no hierarchy of progression and or measure.

—Page from Funginii

“Time is a collective experience that embodies and moves in the movements of the multitude.” Hardt and Negri point out that throughout time from Aristotle, to Kant, to Heideggar time was always held in a transcendent dwelling place. In Modernity, time has always been understood as a means of measure and reality could not be understood outside of the rigidities of measure.  Language facilitated this measure in reason. Basinski’s poetics, while being, in places, precisely timed and measured, never equate the two. In fact, the manuscript of Funginii oscillates between columnar words, both unfolding and folding on the level of the morpheme, and shocking outbreaks of hand-written drawing,  which materialize often from the drawn shapes of sounds, repetitions, rhythms, words and letters. One could perform poems from just one of these bursts of the hand for a life time—assigning meaning to color, contours and sounding the miniscule movements between scales. Silence is performing parts of Basinski’s poems always. They often gain significant meaning from the words and morphemes that surround them, but they can also be read separately. The shifts in scale are various, sometimes subtle and sometimes drastic. Upon entering one of these bodily symbols, open and pulsating, one is left with the impression of a drawing of sound. However, potential readings are too numerous to venture any stable interpretation—what is prevalent though, is the temporal shifts that reading these bursts require. Depending on one’s focus and their proclivities, meaning ensues for the sake of the individual. What does not change across the spectrum of the visible elements in Basinski’s work is that they unfold immanently with the viewer or interpreter or performer, and like Derrida’s auto-affective ness, are subject to the temporality of their voicing. In relation to modernity’s transcendental usage of time for measure, particularly for the measure of labor, Basinki’s poetics can be seen performing a postmodern temporality which “is no longer determined by any transcendent measure” and since “any apriori time pertains directly to existence…the transcendentalism of temporality is destroyed most decisively because it is now impossible to measure labor, either by convention or by calculation. Time comes back entirely under collective existence and thus resides within the cooperation of the multitude.” [xxiii]

While Basinski’s poems enable such a wide variability of flux and a multiplicity of meaning, in fact, “the poems are of the multitude,”[xxiv] they still have definitive areas of reference.

These poems, before they are anything else, are of the night, on the damper, darker underside of the Enlightenment--“to the underside/ of/ the spirit pilus/opposite the/dorsal” The manuscript can be entered anywhere or exited anywhere. Funginii, the word itself is a referent to fungus, but also to fun and ginii, connoting that the magic of the poems, the force that coheres a performance, should come immediately from fun. The poem is populated with numerous references to fungus, mushrooms, spores and pores and these ungulate through a textual atmosphere populated by world myth, yet distinct relationships are set forth throughout the poems.

The Nordic mythological presences of Odin, Thor, Freya and Loki, Vili—Will and Ve—Holy,  appear throughout in relation to Greek, Egyptian and Roman deities—all of which are contextualized by organic, natural, and botanic genus.

of the glorified/one non/ WODA/UDOR/VATU/ UT OF/ OR OT/ opposite/ condition from/ an bump/ is the/ devViilopmentphi/s/ of a depression in the/ pileus  (Funginii)

Here the entire tradition of Northern Mythology as a kind of fragmented, poorly documented set of beliefs, due to its less permanent oral tradition, is implicated as the “opposite condition” or the underside of devViielopment, with its Roman numeral VII bodied forth in the spelling. Orality and with it the attendant voice of the multitude is referenced. “Pileus,” while referencing the cap of a mushroom, (Funginii),  also refers simultaneously to a style of Roman cap, giving the Roman numeral within  devViielopment special significance, and the cap, which was somewhat pointy, is also related to a type of cloud formation with a hood-like Cumulous makeup. All three meanings are equally uncanny when followed out to there logical conclusions. The Roman pileus cap, like a fez, was made of felt and associated with the manumission of slaves who wore it upon there liberation. If we consider the Northern Myths as less prominent because of their relation to writing, and hence the Word—here they are given the significance of the opposite condition of “devViielopment” and with the reference to slavery an image of longing, of capture, of looking to the sky, to the “pileius” formation for freedom around and outside of “devViielopment” with its built-in Roman measure VII. Reading down the column in logical order, an order not at all necessary:

the shape here is/Heb/ called depressed/ and is open/ unoccorealted/ wish/ unuplifting of the pileal margin/ the cup can be/ shadow shallowly/de-/ pressed or deeply/ depressed/ she hovers over/the/ city. She sees seeks, / peak in/ museeic seas

Here the cap becomes “cup” but not before the shape “Heb” is opened and “unoccorealted” or perhaps un- inoculated, or uncorrelated—unordered- and the  “unuplifting” “wish” of the “pileal margin,”  which in this context would be the walls or bearriers of  a prison,  can be “Shadow” or “Shallow” because the cap, originally a signifier of captivity, is now transformed through the interpretive act of voicing,  into “cup” turning the unuplifting wish of the pileal margin, or the wish of the captors, into a shadow and/or shallow—freeing her to “Hover over the city,” seeking the peak in the pileus cloud-formation. It is substantial that this escape occur “in/museeic seas” implying that it can only occur in the timbre of a throat, in a voice becoming.  It is this type of motion—the breaking free of barriers and restraints that occurs throughout Basinki’s poems. They do not, however, valorize authority new or old--- an oppressed agent tends always to gain significance or recognition.
Loki, for example populates an entire section, and he is also embedded into a symbol, ▲ , which recurs throughout Funginii in various configurations.

Loki, in Nordic Myth is often considered the god of evil, the dark side, and as a precursor for Satan himself. Funginii recalls a combination of Loki-lore. The first of which is Skrymsli and the Peasant Child. Skrymsli win’s a peasant’s only son in a game of chess. Proclaiming that he will return the next day to apprehend the boy, the giant leaves. The peasants pray to Odin and Hoenir for aid. Both aid the family, but were outwitted by the giant. As a last resort they pray to Loki for assistance. When he appears he turns the child into a tiny fish-egg and buries him in the stomach of a salmon. The giant returns and immediately guesses where the boy is and proceeds to fish out the salmon within which the boy is hidden. Right before the giant is about to find the boy, Loki turns him back into a boy and tells him to flee. Loki then corals the giant into a trap, killing the giant and freeing the boy.

Loki was also thought to be responsible for the death of Balder, Odin’s beloved son. In his last attempt to get away from the perusing gods, he resolves to turn himself into a salmon and hide at the bottom of the river. Always paranoid of his abilities, Loki decides to fashion a net so that he could practice getting out of it if one was used in the search for him. Just as he was fashioning the net Thor and Odin approach his camp by the river, so Loki quickly tosses the half finished net into the fire before diving in. It took quite a bit of time, but eventually the gods saw the burnt up piece of net in the fire and it gave Loki away. They dragged the river with it, eventually catching Loki. And to this day the slippery thin tail of a Salmon is said to be so because of the deforming squeeze from Thor when he caught Loki.  Funginii reads:

Loki▲  face/ he winged/ aogserpants/ i/ vase filette/fish//Nex //voice////who/inlady/ Maegypthee/ ╔┘•/ at the coming of spring//S// as a fruit/ flaystole/fowl/ fowells/ fortell/ or introduce/ zones/ WEB/ Fraya’s

That this passage ends in zones in the web of Fraya is significant in that she was the goddess of Earth, beauty, love, and Fruitfulness. And it is fruitfulness above all else that Basinski’s poetry enacts. Loki, here symbolizing evil, his face of “winged aogserpants” rather than his written identity, his “i becoming something like a collector’s item, a frozen text or filling or “fillette” for a “vase,” caught in the net of his own making. His “fish Nex,” in “voice”  becomes a vehicle for transformation, a “voice” that “who inladvy” or in the voice of a lady “Maegypthee” or may jip thee, at the coming of spring, as a “fruit fly” introduced in the zones of Fraya, or rather in the growth of earth, love.  Here a personification of evil and deceit, the underside of Greek and western reason,  when “voiced” escapes the limits of  nets, or Language and jips those seeking its capture by being spoken and this act of speaking is itself seen as spring and opens into zones of love and growth—Fraya’s WEB.

Loki turning the peasant boy into a fish is also significant in that his story is equally central to readings of Basinski’s endless references to nets, eggs, and fish. That Loki turned the peasant boy into a fish and himself, during his last moments of freedom, escaping his life, into a fish equalizes the two. That the peasant boy was not caught and Loki was immortalizes Loki’s fish-shape as peasant freedom. However, that Loki jips the fish- net by being voiced “inladvy” and that that speaking is the coming of spring, in Basinki’s Funginii, contextualized by all of the transformational movement that moves from restraint and constraint to freedom or escape, the story of the peasant boy’s freedom is not of little importance.

Re-possession / Reappropriation of Affect

Funginii exists also as a CD recording of Basinki’s group Bufluxus performing the manuscript in ways one could never discern from experiencing the manuscript as a personal reading experience. This crystallization of poetic inspiration as voice-over, as a polished mix of their performance, circulated into the market is not complicit with capital in the most apparent ways.  In fact, it is an example of what Hardt and Negri call “being against” for all the reasons I have alluded to throughout this paper. It is a material example of re-constructing a productive methodology within, and in fact, of capital to re-appropriate affect.

Listening to the CD the first thing one is struck by the work’s violent, sexual and seemingly random nature. The sounds are bristling in the way that Russian formalism’s estrangement, through DaDa and Zaum, was designed to sound—an affront and implication of one’s complicit body in space. The material of language and one’s passive subjectivity within it is immediately brought to the fore. However, when track four—Unveiled Mouth, begins its acoustic introduction, it is as if a recording of the latest popular alternative band is playing. Structured this way it drastically undercuts the structure of such music through its apparent participation. When the lyrics begin, they are no Lyrics at all, but direct improvisational sounds delivered as if a popular alternative hit, but with no immediate graspable sense. This hybrid of popular culture with the continual negation of language or at least official Language, the Official Word in the medium of capitalist production, in fact, precisely  Produced in its language, enacts  the potential reappropriative force of experimental communicative production, temporally unmeasured—speaking the voice of the multitudinous.

This participatory mode of production is the only way forward. The myth of an inside and outside to capitalist production has been usurped by Empire. This, however, is good news for poetics, for those who create communicative productions.  What Basinski’s poetics do is include everything--- there is no out-of-bounds. And though Basinski himself has spoken of moving toward purity in poetry his poetry will never be pure. His work recognizes the necessity of the Word. Movements toward purity recapitulate the extremism and  the exploitation they try to shed, In fact, the entire premise of language’s glaring chasm of negativity, particularly Derrida’s theory of auto-affective indeterminacy, utilized so effectively against any sense of structuralism, while sufficiently enacting the temporal significance of presence, does as much to establish the growing necessity of constituent material. While linguistic theories of negativity have done well to show the effectiveness of constructed affect in the realm of bio-power, annihilating language completely will end in poverty, exclusion. The negativity of language is symptomatic of modern transcendentalism --- a dialectical aporia. However, knowing that Empire works with its constituent powers of conflict at its center, is in fact made by and of the productive forces of conflict--- the negativity of language, the impurity of silence, can be seen as a choice for the reappropriation of affect.

“Communication and the biopolitical context are coexistent,” but “mere refusal of order leaves us on the edge of nothingness, or worse these gestures risk reinforcing imperial power rather than challenging it.”(Empire) Mike Basinski’s hybrid embrace of the technologies of communicative production and voice-over, his work’s reconfiguration of temporality and his insistence on openness, an openness that encourages and facilitates continual recitranslation on the spot by the multitude puts his work in the realm of the capacity to reappropriate affect and with it its attendant power. His immeasurable labor perpetuates throughout his invented community and is “a contemporary form of exodus” in the center of Empire, and his “new forms of labor” the imaginative reality that his work demands is part of the creation of “increasingly immaterial forms of affective and intellectual labor power, in the community that they constitute, in the artificiality they present as a project.”(Empire)

Basinski’s is a poetics of voice for those who have yet to speak.

It seems, that within the conditions of biopower, with no evident inside or outside, all aesthetic production is as Steve McCaffery concludes his seminal essay, Voice in Extremis, “anthropological rather than art categorical,” and now, perhaps more than ever a  “Coming Community.”

Works Cited

Agamben, Giorgio, Language and Death: A place of Negativity, Trans. Karen Pinkus & Michael Hardt, Minnesota UP, 1991.

Basinski, Michael, Nieghttime) POEMS, Funginni, ABACUS, #128, Feb. 15, 2000.

---.  [Un] Nome, Run Away Spoon Press.

---.  The New Concrete, Open Letter, A Canadian Journal of Writing and Theory, 11th Series, No.2, Summer 2001.

Derrida, Jacques, The Gift of Death, Trans. David Willis, Chicago UP, 1995.

---.  Speech and Phenomenon: And Other Essays on Husserl’s Theory of Signs.  Trans. David. B. Allison, Northwestern UP, 1973.

Hardt, Michael & Negri Giorgio, Empire, Harvard UP, 2000.

Hesiod, Theogeny: Works and Days, Jeffery Henderson ed., Harvard UP, 2006.

Hollis, Tanya & Taylor Bradly, Introduction to Bones of Sheep, Small Press Collective, Buffalo, NY, No.2, Nov 10, 1997.

McCaffery, Steve, Prior to Meaning; The Protosemantic and Poetics, Northwestern UP, 2001.


[i] For an indispensable account of the various movements, through poetry, of the mythopoetic prosthesis of inspiration and subjectivity, see: Rasula, Jed, Poetry’s Voice-Over, chapter in Sound States: Innovative Poetics and Acoustical Technologies, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, London pp. 131.

[ii] See: Hesiod, Theogeny, Works and Days, Testimonia, Jeffery Henderson, ed. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, London, 2006, pp. 5.

[iii] See: Rasula, Jed, Poetry’s Voice-Over, chapter in Sound States: Innovative Poetics and Acoustical Technologies, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, London.

[iv] For a more detailed ehtico-juridicial-political historical analysis of the rise of empire, as supranational right, see the entire book, but most specifically: pp. 1-22 of Hardt, Michael and Antonio Negri, Empire, Harvard University Press, 2000.

[v] See Rasula, Jed, Poetry’s Voice-Over, chapter in Sound States: Innovative Poetics and Acoustical Technologies, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, London.

[vi] See: Derrida, Jacques, The Gift of Death, trans. David Willis, University of Chicago Press, 1995, Entire first chapter: pp. 1-35 for the explication of the sacrifice. I am relying here, however, on a metaphor of my own making, drawing semblance between the original sacrifice of Isaac and that of the sacrifice of one’s own voice and with it their only chance at individual subjective creation in something like Empire.

[vii] Ibid.


[ix] From: Basinski, Michael, Nieghttime ) POEMS, Funginii, ABACUS, #128, Feb. 15, 2000.

[x] See Rasula, Jed, Poetry’s Voice-Over, chapter in Sound States: Innovative Poetics and Acoustical Technologies, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, London.

[xi] See: Hollis, Tanya and Taylor Brady, Introduction to Bones of Sheep, Small Press Collective (Buffalo, NY), No.2, Nov. 10, 1997.

[xii] See: Agamben, Giorgio, Language and Death: A Place of Negativity, Trans. Karen Pinkus and Michael Hardt, University of Minnesota Press, 1991, pp.19-26.

[xiii] For the full and compelling historical analysis of the Latin pronoun as Transcendentia or that which does not refer to any determinate object, that which is predicated before every predication – a ground zero—that can only be determined in relatio and demonstratio,see: Ibid. It is also interesting to consider the socially democratic interpretations of Wycliff and the pains the church went through to suppress his translations of the Bible. It is easy to see this intense problematic of Latin pronouns in relation and in demonstration, as a means for which people could come into proximity with, or speak the tongue of God.

[xiv] See Hardt, Michael and Antonio Negri, Empire, Harvard University Press, 2000. pp12.

[xv] See: Derrida, Jacques, Speech and Phenomena: And Other Essays on Husserl’s Theory of Signs, David B. Allison, trans., Northwestern UP, 1973, pp. 82.

[xvi] For the full discussion which aptly deconstructs Husserl, see: Ibid.

[xvii] Neutrality, here occupies the same place of negativity.

[xviii] It should be noted here that I am referring to Basinki’s many poems online, and in print which ask and direct readers and speakers to perfume them. Basinski certainly makes poems which only he performs but my assertion that his poetry is for the performance of the multitude is drawn from the way in which he continually refers to his poems as retranslations, improvisational, the many poems that are in fact made for others and the variable nature of the members of his performance group, which change often, without some sort of authoritive prerequisite to join.

[xix] For an explanation of [Un] Nome see: Basinski, Michael, [Un} Nome, Run Away Spoon Press.

[xx] See: Basinski, Michael, The New Concrete, Open Letter: A Canadian Journal of Writing and Theory, 11th Series, No2, Summer 2001.

[xxi] Ibid.

[xxii] See Hardt, Michael and Antonio Negri, Empire, Harvard University Press, 2000. pp58.

[xxiii] For a discussion which defines the Immateriality of labor in a Biopolitical environment where reproducibility of labor and production is no longer definable as a main example of the immeasurability of temporality see: See Hardt, Michael and Antonio Negri, Empire, Harvard University Press, 2000. pp. 401-402.  See: Hollis, Tanya and Taylor Brady, Introduction to Bones of Sheep, Small Press Collective (Buffalo, NY), No.2, Nov. 10, 1997.

Warren Lloyd is working on the final revisions of an MA thesis in English at the University at Buffalo. He studied painting at Pratt Institute before he went on to Rochester Institute of Technology to earn an MFA in New Forms. His work has appeared in numerous places printed and digital including: Homonumos (Beijing), Moria Poetry, Vibrant Gray, There Journal and The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Asian American Literature (Greenwood Press) where he wrote an essay about Mei-mei Berssenbrugge. He lives and works in Buffalo with his wife Staci and his five-year- old son Oliver.

RECONFIGURATIONS: A Journal for Poetics & Poetry / Literature & Culture, http://reconfigurations.blogspot.com/, ISSN: 1938-3592, Volume 4 (2010): Emergence

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