REVIEW: n+1(+1) by Buffy Cain


by Marc Matchak

Buffy Cain’s (n+1)+1: The Decivilizing Process Server was released online through GaussPDF and in print on Gauss Editions this past January. The book seems to operate off of what could be an algorithm, or something that reprocesses the entirety of (n+1)’s fifth issue: Decivilizing Process and extends its language, adding different suffixations, hyphenated forms, or at times, complete permutations – which more often than not provide each feature with wavering connotations, new and exciting hallucinatory contexts.

Whereas the word “picture” appeared in Meghan Falvey’s “Woman, the New Social Problem,” Cain offers us “picturesqueness” in “Woman-hater, the New Social Proboscidean”. Alike to “picture” as “picturesqueness,” “problem” becomes “Proboscidean” as (n+1)+1 provides an addend to language through its processing—wherein both the root forms and definitions of words become curiously suspended, often subject to an entirely different reading. It is perhaps inside this process, where its authorship and meaning gets lost in the server. In terms of its textual value, there certainly seems to be a critical operant internalized through Cain’s gesture. But value here seems as vague, or perhaps as indeterminate, as the algebraic term “n.” If “n” is a word amongst a larger algorithm-based narrative, then the materiality of word appearances allow for a number of paths in which narratives can form, and more playfully how we can read them.

Opening is the section “Against Emanation,” with the word “emanation” presumably acting as a permutation of “email”. Accordingly, “Thanks to emanation, the residual eloquentness of a moribundity letter-writing culturist received a rejuvenating jolt of immediateness.” As words absorb this +1– their suffixation, hyphenation, and permutation—certain textual theorizations begin to run humorously contradictory to themselves. That is to say, if “Against Email” once framed the immediacy of emailing against one’s nostalgia for eloquent letter writing, we’re taken back as readers to perhaps a (literally) more calculated discourse around writing email-letters. Immediacy loses such in becoming “immediateness” and words cast shadows as sources of emanation throughout the rest of the work.

It is quickly evident that whatever regurgitated (n+1)+1 materializes an internally critical voice with its stretching and twisting of words. However this sort of reading may be wearied from feature to feature. Take the more deliberately affected “Papa-3” (originally titled “Papa-2”). Such an overt addition seems to provide an extended reading, perhaps as a mode of presentation wherein the value of the original narrative is intently preserved. “Papa-3” offers a lengthier recount of Basharat Peer’s memoir set during the Kashmir Conflict, where grotesque descriptions of torture at the Papa-2, “the most notorious torture, chamberer in all of Kashmir,” are neither softened nor trivialized, but further twisted: “One soldierfish heldentenor your neckband, two others pulled your legumes in different directiveness, and three more rolled a heavy concrete rollick over your legumes.” Foremost is that such a rewriting, even reverentially, undeniably positions Cain’s result-text as something representationally tenuous—though it also calls for a consideration of its place in a larger stream of information, amongst the other features in the original issue. With descriptions of war and torture amongst other topics regarding emails, the Argonauts, online porn, we still are left to question: what is the value of n?

While (n+1)+1 often seems to allow for strained close-readings of a shadowing différance between itself and the original texts, some other results are more aesthetically rewarding—possibly appearing in favor of abstracting an already critical voice. There is “The Pornocracy Machine” which examines the changing climate of pornographic materials, masturbation, and our own eroticisms. In this machine digitized pornography is framed as a “wormcast neuk for the instantaneous transmissiveness of large imager and streaming filets.” The bizarreness of “filet” fuses the file with its content, which could ostensibly be the streaming of two people mashing genitals, dispassionately fucking, much like slabs of meat in motion. In a way both strange and humorous, the language of arousal blends with its elicited critique and soon both are precariously forgone, just as “The commissionership forgoes the possible of arid descriptiveness and resources instead to pornographic lingoes ‘licks his anvil,’ ‘uncontrollable suckler on her breaststrokes,’ ‘dripping with semen’.” What was once intended to arouse and then made subject to critique, becomes reformulated in a sort of gaudy, cartoonish language. In all of this, going from a language that acts cartoonish to a language that’s critical or constructive, there remains an inconsistency or rather, a method of approach that wildly differentiates in each feature’s reading.

But despite any inconsistency in how we read each section per se, the output from what is assumedly an algorithm behind (n+1)+1 is very consistent. The word “pride” appears as “pride-of-California” in “Noteworthinesses from Cape Town” as it does elsewhere in sections like “Anesthetic Ideomotion” and “Fictionalization Chronicity”. If anything, such deviations in our readings bestow each section with a unique operating function, outside of association and away from the language that contextualizes our reality. Still regarding an algorithm, it seems worth mentioning that work appearing so largely “gesture based” runs the risk of being heavily misinterpreted, or longs to remain without any interpretation whatsoever. Many questions can still be raised and much can be said about (n+1)+1’s relationship with experimental writing, constraint, and machine worship, or its standing as a sort of humorous antithesis to erasure poetry, though neither are necessarily what make reading it so enjoyable. Perhaps Buffy Cain’s (n+1)+1 functions as a result in itself, presenting a report on its affectation with which we are left to our own curiosities in engaging its strange logistics, the colorful output of a language protracted.

Gauss PDF: $5 print or free PDF

Marc Matchak is currently based out of San Francisco, California. Their work has been shown and published through The New School Library, Split/Fountain Auckland, and the Littman Gallery in Portland.


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