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Friday, September 5, 2014

Response to 'theory and matter' in AIA
(with a much appreciated acknowledgement of my role in coining zombie formalism in paragraph 19)

I finally got around to reading the article by Rubinstein. I thought problematic his idea that American artists should take the lead of the French and apply more theory to their work. It could be helpful but there is something anti-American about it. I recall Bataille's observation of swaggering American soldiers in Paris after the war who seemed to embody the immanence of the ideal in the real. don't separate the ideal from the real, so that we can achieve the ideal only through action.

lt has been said that to understand the Deconstructionist mindset you have to understand the context within which it was created.i.e. French culture, which is Cartesian, hierarchical and oriented around the power of the State from Louis XIV to Hollande. It is hard to just break away and live the nomadic lifestyle that Deleuze and Guattari set off against the hierarchical; you are only allowed to intellectually deconstruct it. I remember the shock of leaving the squalor of New York of the Seventies for Paris, where I lived or should I say scrounged for three years, which, although it suffered from the same economic malaise never let it show.The streets were clean, the parks beautifully maintained.The State made sure that the raw energy of economics, as it waned or waxed, did not spoil the transcendent beauty of their city. Maybe we spontaneously deconstruct on a constant basis; there is something nomadic at the heart of the American experience, whereas the French turn nomadism into an intellectual game until everything blows up as in '68 or the French Revolution.

For the poet and dreamer Paris is seductive with its overlay of history and hedonism. I remember the poet Ralph from Nebraska whom I met at the Chez Michel in Montmartre, whose owner, a retired actor wore a Stetson hat. Ralph conjured up ghosts of Paris past wherever he wandered. It were as though he needed a lifetime to recover from the pragmatic plains of the Midwest. Was it any different for Henry Miller who left the raw utilitarian life of Brooklyn or Thomas Merton who yearned for a sweetness that he seemed to recall from his youth in France? He thought it embodied in the well-behaved school children dressed in uniforms. So different from the French youth of the banlieues of today saturated in American hip-hop culture.


  1. four years since I wrote this have changed things in Paris.Gilets Jaunes anti- government protests.I Hear the city is not so well maintained.

  2. just came back from Paris and although the parks are impeccable the plug was pulled on the magic of Notre Dame. I heard from my sister who knows someone involved in funding the renovation that the scaffolding built for the initial repair s is now welded to the stone of the cathedral and no one knows if in separating them the building will collapse. Someone has deconstructed Notre Dame. That sort of reworking of history was done by Pei with his pyramid at the Louvre and unintentionally to Notre Dame. It will surely be rehabilitated as a rhizome in the urban structure.