The word “gesture” has stayed in my head for weeks now. I hope to fulfill the wish of Georges Bataille and work out an entry into a critical dictionary that examines the task of, and not merely the meaning of, “gesture.”1 In its latest iteration in my thinking, it is tasked with suggesting the fate of printed books, magazines, chapbooks and journals. Earlier this week Saraba Magazine released its first individual poetry chapbook, a suite of fourteen poems by co-publisher Dami Ajayi. In the press release, Dami Ajayi’s poems is said to have “notoriously stayed out of print” and in my preface to the chapbook I reflect on how poetry “is falling apart in my time” because the collection is self-published. Illa Amudi, Saraba’s graphic designer, came up with the idea that the chapbook can be “read on all PDF-compatible devices or printed for keep.” Pearl Osibu, in her impassioned “not-a-review” of the chapbook ends with “I know what I will do. I will print this chapbook and keep under my pillow—my bible, my devotional.” This idea immediately becomes a counter-argument to the point that printed matter is becoming obsolete. Print books are emotional gestures. I want to keep thinking of strategies to offer that gesture in my role as co-publisher of Saraba Magazine. I propose that “printed matter” will become a counterpoint to the amorphous, fleeting Internet; I have to, like Triple Canopy, offer strategies that slow it down.
While watching the second installment of Musée de la Danse: Three Collective Gestures, I made notes about contemporary dance. My involvement with criticism began with an attempt to write about contemporary dance, at a workshop where Qudus Onikeku was one of the facilitators. This was in November 2009. Mr Onikeku was part of 24 dancers that performed “Levée des Conflits Extended” (“Suspension of Conflicts Extended”) by the French choreographer Boris Charmatz. “The concept at the core of “Levée” is mathematical. The dance consists of a sequence of 25 simple and repetitive movements, but there are only 24 dancers. So when each of the dancers is executing one of the movements, something is left out,” reports Brian Seibert. While attempting to figure out what was unfolding in front of me, I came up with the idea that contemporary dance was the most successful invective against spectacularization. It is a troubling display of moving bodies, in a place that is better termed a “space” than a “stage.” And to use Sherman Fleming’s words, this sort of contemporary dance is a “noncommodifiable energy,” the kind that tasks you to see and not necessarily to understand. It’s like the “object theatre” in American performance art of the 1970s, or the performance pieces of Jelili Atiku: everyday mundane items become something other than themselves, yet their resulting substance is hard to define. But the bodies on display, like the mundane items, emerge as souvenirs attached to memory. We will not forget what we do not understand.
1. An introduction to Bataille’s critical dictionary is here. Addendum: “Thought Scores” are numbered on-the-go-ideas originating from ongoing research, readings, conversations, weblinks, controversies, etc. I am drawn to. I’ve never succeeded in keeping my word about “series” and side-projects—for instance “Afropicking,” "Weekly Round Ups"—but "Thought Scores" will be an easier promise to keep as I hope that the items will be as though I’m performing thoughts on the go.
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Poetry, Thought Scores