Category: Andy Martrich

ESSAY: Dead Records in Suspension: A reading of Holly Melgard’s Reimbursement and Carlos Soto-Roman’s Chile Project (Re-Classified)

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by Andy Martrich

Evidence, physical or otherwise, is seldom considered via its role in a collection as a materially reflexive component of the collection (i.e. content-as-content), and in lieu of the affective quality it exhibits. The appearance of a configurative substance within the given context of a life-cycle or an archive might commonly trigger a classification process that takes place within that constraint; however, it is seldom considered in terms of requisite permutations as a variable of retention. The process of classification does not inherently question whether or not the identifiers assigned to and inferred from content are prone to expiration. Poetic content, particularly in the sense that it appears as evidence, is typically viewed in the context of its designated container— a poem, poetry, indications of poetic diction or aesthetic form, a shape, etc. But how is a reader to view content that was formerly assigned a role (socially, culturally, politically) only to be set in motion within the parameters of a collection— modified, nullified, or destroyed? Holly Melgard’s Reimbursement (TROLL THREAD 2013) and Carlos Soto-Roman’s Chile Project (Re-Classified) (Gauss PDF 2013) are two such instances of content appearing as modified evidence on display— collections striving to convey a nuanced intention proxy to the manufacturer, producer, or socially dominant authority source through the suspension of records in apparent disposition.

Holly Melgard’s Reimbursement is a 228-page book/PDF predominantly composed of images of losing lottery tickets. The piece is duplicitous in its intention, serving as documentation of financial loss, and as a kind of fundraising effort on behalf of the collector, where the cost of one book will ultimately reimburse the amount of her gambling losses over a 6-year period. In the introduction Melgard writes,

The price to purchase this book is equivalent to the money I spent on losing lottery and scratch tickets over the last 6 years ($222), plus whatever Lulu charges for its print on demand services. Reimbursement is for the work. Whether you have to work to pay for it or not, regardless of my job, now it’s your turn.

Reimbursement, Page 1

Here the reader is treated to the ephemerality of the record in that it only serves as evidence of the intention of the collector and not independently (i.e. records in isolation do not exist). In effect, there is also the implication of the transformation of meaning through stages of hope (i.e. bureaucracy), systematic rejection, financial loss as a result of that rejection, evidence (within the role of the archive) of the collector’s activities and habits over a given time period (6-years) and location (New York), and inevitably, of the death of the record (regardless of its suspension as content) in that it has served as a representation of an event/evidence and is no longer useful in the context of its intended purpose of production (i.e. a lottery ticket mandated by New York state). Here the reader encounters a content that stagnates at the end of its retention period. Essentially, it either alters intention (moved or modified by way of an external authority) or enters the death phase (i.e. disposition). However, during the reading process the reader innately assumes that the records remain active, in forgetting that she or he is not participating in the process of accessing and viewing losing lottery tickets, but rather scans of losing lottery tickets.

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The reader cannot know if the collector has participated in disposition, or even shredded evidence subsequent to its digitization. It is in this space of the modification, movement, and destruction of records (records in a constant ephemeral phase) where we encounter content in flux— not of sound, image, capacity, or even aesthetics— but rather of the seamless transformation of what all things do best: disappear (i.e. die and decay). What remains is evidence; what goes is poetic inference.

Given the absence of the physical evidence, there occurs a necessary suspicion of the authenticity of any documentation that the image might imply. If presented with the corporeal evidence, then perhaps what is read is the non-fiction of evidence, which portends the necessity of advocacy for the reimbursement of the collector’s finances. However, there is only the image (that becomes the object, privileged substitute of the physical, regardless of its intrinsic drive toward obsolescence) and the word of the collector (an admitted gambler and therefore less prone to be trusted in a fiduciary context), who decides what stays and what goes.

In place of images of losing lottery tickets, suppose the reader encounters a flyer intended to serve as an advertisement for karate lessons, but the date for the lessons has already past. The reader is immediately faced with a question: what happens to the karate lessons when they are no longer offered? In this question lies the predicament of records, particularly as ephemera, which more frequently than not inherently intend expiration/systematic rejection/social uselessness— essentially treading a very fine line between modification/movement and disposition/destruction. In this example, the karate lessons were offered at a particular place and time (i.e. culturally historicized), but if there is no physical evidence, there is no real way of knowing if we are being manipulated into believing that what we are encountering is in fact a double. This act cannot be derivative of the intention of the object, which will always intend if it is allowed to; however, it is by a matter of an overriding intention of an external dominance (i.e. a policy, curator, archivist, collector), which ultimately grants meaning to the archive. In this sense, a record is always dead until moved/modified, even if that modification entails its destruction. Archives are immaterial until an authority says otherwise, and therefore are pockets of solipsistic activity (activated into existence by an authorization). The reader has no choice but to believe the collector in the context of her collection, regardless if the records are dead or nonexistent.

In a similar manner, the collector may portend nonexistence in preference to existence. In Carlos Soto-Roman’s Chile Project (Re-Classified), there are two ostensible authorities contending to authorize record states: the collector and the CIA. These Cold War era documents regarding the intervention of the USA in the 1973 Chilean coup d’état were de-classified in 2000, while the collector re-classifies them (13 years later) by occluding the previously uncensored content of the documents. In effect, while the National Security Archive mandates a renewal of access to information, the collector rejects this renewal, perhaps even illegally according to the Terms and Conditions of the National Security Archive website.

You may not edit or otherwise change the substance of the content in any reproduction, publication, distribution, or transfer of an article or section of the Web site that is credited to the National Security Archive, except that you may excerpt portions of the content with credit to the author, where applicable, and the National Security Archive.

Regardless, the result is a 45-page PDF of choppy scans replete with black marks and scribbling.

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Classified information exposes another layer of the collection. Not only are classified records considered to be vital, they also require staunch security measures to prevent access by uncleared persons. However, the collector modifies the role of the record by re-censoring de-classified content, exposing the record in its former state while simultaneously negating the intention. The reader is left to view dummy representations of the latent phase, a record in a perpetual state of modification (always on the cusp of movement) within the collection. Because a re-classified record insinuates a de-classified record, the reader infers that the de-classified content is accessible in another location (perhaps the National Security Archive website) even though the collector refrains from providing this information. Evidently, the collector prefers the death phase over the record’s assumed accessible state in an archival phase somewhere else. Again, what remains in the life-cycle is evidence; the record on the cusp of disposition or dead from the cycle becomes the poetic inference of the material— no longer accessible for the sheer fact that no one accesses it (i.e. records cannot exist in isolation) in lieu of an accessible counterpart or state. In this context, the re-classified records only intend the portrayal of a particular classified state (Secret and Confidential) that the reader may safely assume has in effect already succumbed to disposition.

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In many instances throughout the piece, classification levels are hardly censored (crossed out but still legible). The reader is left to consider whether or not this is a double of the original censorship. If not, what exactly is the collector’s bias? Aside from classification levels, there are words that recur uncensored throughout the text, namely: Chile, Pinochet, Condor, Disappeared, Murder, and Death. Some documents contain more selective edits than others. The juxtaposition between pages 30 and 31 is particularly revealing:

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Page 31 follows suit, a document heavily censored in sloppy black marker, while on the preceding page the collector exercises very selective censorship resulting in the concrete presentation of a cryptic message, “MURDER IS CONDOR DISAPPEARED CHILE NNN.” In this context, the piece appears to be an erasure; however, in a cohesive sense, it differs in its role of re-instating a security measure in the absence of a security-related reason (or at least without providing the reader with one), re-adding in lieu of eliminating. It is therefore indicative of the very opposite of erasure, in essence, a busted evidence— an evidence that breaks under the strain of its activation (res extensa via res cogitans) and responsibility as accessible material in the collection. It is not the erasure of content, but rather the destruction of form (in the sense of material rather than technique). The suspension of such evokes the corpse of its modification.

It is in the death phase that evidence becomes defective, transitory, and in turn, poetic. In this case, it is primarily noticeable when considering the reader’s inherent suspicion of authenticity in the wake of the collector’s overt request for money (Melgard), and the collector’s selective presentation of a former state, i.e. a dead self (Soto-Roman). In both cases, the suspension of the dead record articulates the infirmity of its role as content to a collection, where it is the authority itself in which the intention is commanded regardless of the production and essential corruption of the trustworthiness of a record as a record.

Andy Martrich is the author of Iona (BlazeVox), NJN Transition (Gauss PDF), and Monsanto Ballooning #1, forthcoming from Make Now. He lives in Dakar, Senegal.

REVIEW: Double Address to Hoof Sedition College Graduating Caste of 2091 by Oren Mabb

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by Andy Martrich

Take pride in your Neanderthal genes, if nothing else, they junk dear to its best form the beak yeasty-smelling privates green and yellow tricorns FILM the monster tho a monster believing shit just shit craps where it can to be part of things.

– Oren Mabb, Double Address to Hoof Sedition College Graduating Caste of 2091, pages 17 and 41

Oren Mabb’s Double Address to Hoof Sedition College Graduating Caste of 2091 is the 116th chapbook published by the LUMA Foundation as part of the 89plus exhibition Poetry will be made by all! The chapbook is variegated with onomatopoeias, filled pauses, interjections, and pro-sentences in the ostensibly concrete displacement of one stumbling through a disembodied graduation speech amidst a grumbling public. The piece consists of two parts: the address, and a compressed double of the address (line breaks removed, content sandwiched together, etc.). It is described at poetrywillbemadebyall.ch as “a constraint-based work composed in a fury after listening to an absurd commencement speech instructing me to happily sell my labor to the lowest bidder for nothing.”

The address, in the sense of a traditional formal rhetoric, breaks from an ecumenical architecture of socially cohesive content-as-evidence, and in turn, opts to re-present itself as its framework. Its presentation solidifies the passive evidence of itself in the manifestation of its doubling, quite literally as the piece consists not of the content of an address, but rather an event in the process of self-archiving. The dislocation of the addresses occurs in the fact that they are parallel in content alone, not in format. The copy appears compressed, 27 pages less than the first address. In the address’s twin, Mabb exposes a double self as naming convention, the entire clone shoved into constriction. For example, the initial address dedicates 6 pages (29-34) to the word “ZOUNDS,” which is also the last word of the address. The same word appears as such in its double, “There is nothing in tomorrow’s garbage you won’t try to eat when you are old. ZOUNDS” -P. 41

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Figure 1: Thumbnails of pages 29-34

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Figure 2: Thumbnail of the recurrence of “ZOUNDS” on page 41

Self is wedged into descriptor. In turn, the address sacrifices a common classification (an authority control) in lieu of maintaining itself word for word, and in the process expends its identity as something in reaction against its summarization and potential accessibility.

Subsequently, description is assumed inherently suspect, regardless of provenance, as the characterization of the model is broken down in the faulted projection of its clone. However, the whole self, if it can exist, can only exist as an ephemeral inference. The address fails to maintain the ostensible whole as evidence of self, and as a consequence the reader is left with the corruption of the whole, articulated here as compression.

This suspicion and failure rectifies the poetic residual of the Double Address. Corrupt evidence (i.e. the self-archive) may infiltrate, isolate, and nullify surroundings (i.e. its ancestry). Doubling, unable to author anything other than its corruption, precipitates isolation, the place where evidence cannot exist.

But the double also becomes the parody of the thing, the re-creation. The difference being the double is no longer indigenous. The copying of self into non-hierarchical terms becomes the banality in which to provide evidence of self-existence (I come from this place, I work this job, I like this music, I do these things); in this case, the address that repeats in lieu of succinct description exists. As an entity typically self-archives to the vacant descriptor, the archived becomes evidence of the identifier as opposed to the safeguarding of the identified. Regardless of the summary, the archived self is simply a cache of identifiers. Here, legacy is severing, the creative advance is a façade, and all naming is political, as it is revealed that self-archiving is the descent into decay, not preservation.

As the address reflects itself, the content reminisces this particular plight of the archive. Shortly into the address, the reader is exposed to a series of ostensibly disjunctive keywords and phrases, where identifiers appear detached from variables. While some of the identifiers are indicative of a graduation (Pleasant Memories, Free at Last, Face in the Crowd) others appear displaced (Honky Tonk Humor #2, Sugar & Space, Highrise Construction M.T.). However, identifiers demarcate patterns throughout the address, one general instance being the echo of each word in the text.

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Figure 3: Appearance of the keyword “contemporary industry” pages 6 and 37

Considering the multiple, perhaps there is no difference between the object and its shadow; however, because the descriptor is variable-less, taken as shape signifier like a recurring pockmark which pocks infinitely, the reader is pulled to consider alterity as opposed to socially practical (logics of an overwhelming consensus) facets of similarity. As a result, it is only possible to self-archive into oblivion. If the name is unable to portend the variable, the intent is severed. What associates with the name is no longer represented or guided by the identifier. It is no longer of itself but (the) part of the self-archive that defines its stuttering, jumpy historicism. For example, the orator delivers:

Say you have the great fire of london, 1666. Go
back a thousand years – 1066 – the year
William the Conqueror landed at Pevensey
and commenced the conquest of England.
Now go ahead eighteen hundred years—
2226 — and you have a year very memorable
for the number of babies born during it who
afterwards became chic Cornstars.

– pages 9 and 38

If authorization is a lie, does infinite refraction ultimately nullify meaning into (via multiplicity) a truth process? Here, authority is delineated temporally. As the role of evidence is situationally-elevated materialism, these events (The Great Fire of London, William the Conqueror at Pevensey) have occurred only as to evidence “babies born during it who afterwards became chic Cornstars” as an actuality of the address’s historicism. Double Address is composed of genealogical pattern spliced with events, the ghosts that once constituted dominant history, as it is in the likeness of its fictions that rolls out of the disembodied indicators like infinite entails. What the reader comes to know as the archive is merely the perpetuation of the act for the sake of the act, i.e. the identity, the authority control of the whole.

The authority control of the whole consists of constant fictional change in order to produce the delusion of the ascension from entanglement-name into process- name– or change in terms of the archive. Change is counterintuitive to the archive, which strives to preserve its material against all change, but fails where preservation ignores distortion and misinterpretation. The repetition of the address connotes the confidence of its assumed normalcy as the familiar evolves into routine, banality— the archive’s primary ammunition. However, it no longer pretends its newness, encouraging the lacunae— where it misses and is no longer missed.

The self-archive, as opposed to an archive of institutional memory, does not rely on material, but rather, a feeling. It deplores its material by insisting on its stagnation in non-hierarchal terms. The capture of a self is procured only from the feeling inferred from those terms, where the embodiment of the feeling deduces a variation of material that merely informs the variant of a former feeling. The self-archive is therefore a repository of feeling as evidence rooted in the ideology of the familiar, however distorted the process. Unfortunately, the familiar (i.e. the evidence) has a lower retention than the repository, although both are refillable/replaceable.

What is interesting to consider is that Double Address may not have a choice but to self-archive in lieu of summary, and in consequence there would be no possible authority control for the reconstruction or re-legitimization of a locus. The variable’s lust for a self-archive is to essentially substitute the description for the material, with the assumption that the description properly identifies and has a longer retention than the variable. However, it is the very archived self that counters this desire (particularly in the wake of its doubles/emptiness) because therein lie the assumptions of itself as evidence of its occurrence, the only facet of itself that presupposes its existence, that it is nominally defined as such, an alternate self. If the variable doubles then it is only a double in the context of the variable. But in the absence of the variable, the double, regardless of its consistency as an authority control, naming convention, whole, etc., is the variable. The self-archive procures its very ephemerality, as the double is always atrophied now, not later. In essence, it is duplicitous, yet thoroughly divided and lonely.

Double Address to Hoof Sedition College Graduating Caste of 2091 is available from the LUMA Foundation

Andy Martrich is the author of Iona (BlazeVox), NJN Transition (Gauss PDF), and Monsanto Ballooning #1, forthcoming from Make Now. He lives in Dakar, Senegal.