Silver Machine

Silver Machine

I finally decided to replace my dead VCR. Though I know better, I bought a combo-unit with both DVD and VCR because my DVD player has been playing tag with the disks, sticking them out and then sucking them back in like a greedy child. If you’re fast, you can snatch and grab, but it’s really rather annoying.

Once upon a time, I used to look at electronic equipment as an investment. For example, I still use the same Hafler DH-200 power amplifier I bought in 1980. This black box has been on virtually continuously since then, and has never failed. Source machines are a different story— virtually anything that includes mechanical transport components is going to fail eventually, period. Though well built things usually last, complexity is usually problematic. For example my turntable (with a single motor and thin transport belt, a Harmon Kardon TD-60) has been humming along with only one belt change since about 1989, more complex machines like VCRs fail quickly. So, I’ve eventually surrendered to disposable culture in one of the last bastions of male toy collecting. I hope to get a capture card sometime soon and transfer the irreplaceable tapes to mpeg, because I suspect things like The Axis Turns (a Thin White Rope euro-tour video) won’t be coming to DVD anytime soon. Hopefully I can manage that before this one breaks. It’s shiny, near the same color as my HK but not quite. It’s a Sony, and it has played everything I’ve tried on it including a DVD of Brother Where Art Thou which I’ve never seen— I’m always way behind on movies. Now, the odyssey can continue.

I had a thousand ideas for things I wanted to write today, but as is usual, I had to go to class instead. The ideas, mostly revolving around family, have evaporated in the shadow of a discussion of The Botany of Desire tonight. I’m sure I’ll write them as I sleep. The opposition of apollonian and dionysian desires is the major trope, and I always keep wanting to engage these binaries. Obviously, my life history has been a bit on the dionysian side. But for now, I wanted to deal with my obvious oversimplification of Duchamp and Warhol yesterday.

I forget which article I read recently that argued for placing Duchamp at the center of twentieth century art rather than Picasso, but suffice it to say this argument falls neatly into the same sort of opposition. Picasso is messy, dionysian, and to use a favorite binary of mine from a while back— plerotic. Plerosis is reaching for totality, to encompass the world by literally including everything. On the other hand, Duchamp is apollonian and kenotic. Kenosis represents an emptying of reference, of minimal correspondence with the world.

In that way, Duchamp is at once similar to Whistler, but different— Duchamp in no way wants to serve any “goddess” of art. As Tom rightly suggests, his pronouncements are distinctly anti-aesthetic. The question was in no way foolhardy, because it forces me to refine the parameters of what I was trying to say. The vehicle of Duchamp’s expression (until he chucked it all for chess) was distinctly aesthetic. It is a redefined kenerotic aesthetic void of concrete reference to domesticity— which uses the domestic as its signifier. The issues in Warhol are even more complex, and I don’t have enough remaining brain-cells to conceptualize that tonight, but what is at play is hardly a sublimation of the domestic, but rather an involvement with it.

The opposition seems clearer to me than it probably does to the people who read that entry. To take it up a notch, let me propose another take. Where Picasso made plates, celebrating the domestic aspects of art— Duchamp moved the urinal and the flatiron into the museum. But my argument, really, is that either way you look at it this represents dealing with domesticity, not sublimating it as the title of the essay collection I noted claims.

On a different note (as this is obviously a random and meandering collection of notes), I asked the Director of Composition tonight if I might teach fundamentals. I can think of no other class that frightens me more. It’s a remedial class, and many people around me have said that they just can’t picture me teaching it. They are afraid I’ll talk over people’s heads. I am afraid of it because I just can’t bring myself to be a grammar cop. I care more about thinking than correctness. Dr. Crisp seemed to think that I would actually be good at fundamentals, precisely because I am not a grammar cop. People in those classes have been corrected to death, usually, and that’s why they end up there. It’s the last chance for marginal students to get it right so they can make it through college. The success rate of students who enter through this route is only about 70%. Dr. Crisp suspects that my low-key approach might be perfect. I hope so. I’m far more patient in front of the classroom than I am when I’m on the other side; I tend to expect a lot from my teachers.

I think the real key to writing is to keep writing. This should be obvious from the way I deal with writing here. I try to write each day, whether I feel like it or not. So far, it works for me. People corrected me to death when I was younger, and I didn’t learn a thing. When I found reasons to write, I learned how. I think that’s the real secret. There is no machine-gun drill to create writers; if there were, it would probably always break down. What remains after things break are impulses and desires. As long as I can stay in touch with those, I feel all right. I don’t want to deal with the emptiness that would remain. I gave up chess years ago.

1 thought on “Silver Machine”

Comments are closed.