Friday, August 11, 2017

Lone Wolf

tw: reactionary but poetic

I think I stopped writing because I’m feeling lonely. Writing is an act of loneliness. When you put what you write out there to the world, the loneliness intensifies and you wait like a lover with your cold hands on the kitchen table. Am I doing what Barthes did, feminize the act of waiting, or loneliness? “Women wait” he says in A Lover’s Discourse. I write this as I wait for something to happen.

A wolf bites into a tree and cries out. Someone barks, a person walking around in circles the way the sun used to rotate before, when they had no idea what it did. When the sun was unknown, it used to run in circles and it used to dive into the sea at night. When the sun was unknown it used to be free. When you know something you fix it in its place. But when you fix the sun in place, you can’t look it in the eyes, it would burn through you, melt you down, you and your knowledge. Can a wolf bite into a tree and cry? Can you hear it?

I barked that day and no one heard me. But the sun made a little dance around my feet and I jumped. I made a leap, I fixed the sun in its place, a leap of knowledge. But then I burned. And the wolf kept crying.

When you put your writing out there for the world to see, the loneliness intensifies and you wait like a lover with your cold hands on the kitchen table.

No one was watching me that night. I spilled a glass of water on the green dry kitchen floor, and waited for the colours to fade. The lights were off and the colours faded on their own. I lit a cigarette and waited.

A wolf bites a tree and cries out.

My barks reached the crying wolf, and we heard each other. We communicated mutual respect and recognition. Now that the sun no longer dances at my feet, it's time for the wolf to bite me. But it broke its teeth into the tree, and left them there as a sign of an intimate moment that will never occur. I walked towards the tree and embraced it, in comfort. Wolf teeth grinding against my thighs, and my arms burn from the heat of the sun.

Thursday, June 1, 2017


White God
A while ago I was under the spell of dogs, I suppose I still am. I found that many painters and movie makers, even novelists, used dogs in their art in different ways. But their dogs were not characters, they were passing figures. Nevertheless, their presence would change everything. What does the dog do? why the dog? Why did Francis Bacon choose dogs to paint animality? Becoming-dog. I tried to borrow the dog. I still fail at it. I just make really good drawings of dogs. I used the picture of two snarling dogs for my friend's cover art, they looked very aggressive, their jaws wide open very close to each other, and they both seem to project their violence on someone else, a third party. Yet, their jaws being so close makes them threatening to each other as well. Their eyes were red from the invading night camera, and for me, they were the emblem of erotica and extreme passion. Their jaws were directed at me, the invader, and the borrower.
There's a whole unspecified genre of books that are written about charming dogs, about dogs which are loyal, friendly, and filled with love towards their owners. Breeding dogs is a selective process, certain dog traits and genes are favored over others. Some dog breeds are treated horribly and banned because of certain prejudices, such as bulldogs. There's nothing innocent about the way humans have constructed the dogs. I wonder if in China they breed the tastiest dogs. Dog genocide.
There's a movie called White Gods (Kornel Mundruczo 2014), about canine revolution. A house dog is set out into the streets to suffer because his owner wouldn't pay a tax on mixed-breeds, the fact that such a tax on non-pure-bred dogs exists shows how brutal and selective our domestication of dogs has been. The abandoned dog, joins an underground canine pack and in an act of canine revenge, fight against all those who want to obliterate them. Running Dog (1954), a painting by Francis Bacon of a white dog, a white stray dog with not much facial features, a blur of colors, a movement which reaches the color white. Bacon's dogs are seen near sewers, even if as in his painting Man With Dog (1953), they have a partner. Being near sewers indicates that this dog is from the street, closer to death than ever. Bacon's dogs are existential dogs, ready to run into oblivion. Stray dogs are the most vulnerable to death, they don't fit the category of domesticated friendly home dogs who are loyal and die by their owner's grave. They die and live alone. They are the debris of dog construction. They are the other side of the mirror. If you shatter the mirror of humanity, you would find dog bodies stacked near dumpsters. Stray dogs have no purpose, this is why they're disposable. Humanity instrumentalizes everything, function beats form. If you are not a home dog, if you were not food, if you were not a drug detector or a tool of torture, you stray. Hunting dogs are something else.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Today: “Soldier shoots man armed with knife at the Louvre.”

Feb, 2, 2017

I'm still trying to grasp the number "17" on my calendar, I keep feeling like time has stopped at 2016, and the numbers keep rolling over the 16, empty of meaning. Maybe all numbers are just that, a veil covering something else, something other. A veil covering a face.

But dates are not numbers, they are reference points, singular reference points which distill the space and time around them in the form of events. Dates are focal nodes which attract events in infinite directions, yet have the power to mean something singular for each one of us. Dates are reference points in the sense that, a certain day in the year would mean that history has taken a drastic turn, a turn to something other, an elsewhere. Thus, we Palestinians have, a Nakbah, a post and pre-1948 Palestine.

“Death being the form of the symbolic itself.”
- Jean Baudrillard, Symbolic Exchange and Death

And all lines protruding from the date, point to Death. Publications, works of art, notes on fridges, they all have dates and they're all marked with death. The date, the death which the date holds, allows for a space where memory can form, where Today would be a site without a place.(1)

In D'ailleurs Derrida, Safaa Fathy's exploration of the life, work, and consequently the death of the French Philosopher Jacques Derrida, she takes him to a fish tank.

"Their sense and understanding of time is completely untranslatable to how I understand time.”

The sense of time is untranslatable to me. I feel like this year is folding on me like a big ravaging wave, sweeping me under it, a massive carpet, first the shadow and then I drown.

Feb, 3, 2017

From this “site without a place” that is today, taking it as a reference point, I will trace what crosses it. I will bear witness.

Today means one is alive, one is a witness, one is under the illusion that they are alive and one. When you read this it will be today for you, you may take the date of the entry as your reference point. As from today, you witness, and I am dead.

Today is as singular as it is universal, my today and your today, is a date, a site without a place.

Today, you are far away
And I, didn't ask you why
What could I say - The National, About Today

We are always standing at a distance from today. Today is always one step ahead. This distance which allows us a space to grasp the events going on around us. To be able to grasp today, to witness today, is allowing death to sweep it and turn it into a date.

Feb, 2, 2017

Regina Spektor has just released a haunting music video for her song Black and White. It has taken days and months to complete her work, but to release the video is to give it a date, a reference point where it’s filed under. With strong magical vocals, and the sound of instruments which are not to be seen, Spektor sits at a piano in the abandoned Uptown Theatre of Chicago, pretending that her playing matches the electronic 80s beat of her track. She sings “ Should I wait for tomorrow?.” A ballerina is seen dancing on a stage in another place, dancing to her music without seeing her. The ballerina follows the music she has been twirling with to it’s source, she finds herself on a staircase, before the ghost Pianist Spektor. In surprise, the ballerina starts fading away until she vanishes completely. The music stops, having no ballerina to play to, and Spektor stops playing as if she woke up from a dream. We are then shown a haunting image of the empty theatre, no performers, the theatre again is left to itself. The performance is today, it’’s spectral, happening and not happening, a voice over, a track to pretend we are playing piano to. It fades away and the date remains. The date is the theatre. The theatre has a history which has since it’s construction in 1925, been a place for many today's, many performances. Today is a site without a place.

Today in headlines, Feb, 3, 2017

“A man has reportedly attempted to a attack a French soldier with a knife, near Paris’ famed Le Louvre are gallery, and the soldier opened fire in self defense.”

The Louvre was constructed in the 12th century as a fortress, it meant to protect Paris in a unsettling time in History.

After it had lost it’s function as a fortress, it nonetheless became a fortress of power and wealth.

In 1793, The French Revolution opened the doors of the Louvre to the public.

In Peter Weiss’ The Aesthetics of Resistance, the narrator describes one of the paintings in the Louvre, saying that the motivation behind it was the “unendurability of life.”

“A French soldier on Friday, opened fire on a wounded man armed with a knife who was trying to enter the Louvre museum with a knife.”

In David Markson’s Wittgenstein’s Mistress, the protagonist burns the Louvre painting for warmth.

“Following the completion of the Louvre, it was abandoned for over a century, when the court moved to Versailles.”

“Soldier shoots man armed with knife at the Louvre.”

“The whole play of history and power is disrupted with this event.” - Jean Baudrillard, The Spirit of Terrorism

In his essay, Jean Baudrillard puts us face to face with the urgency of events which are always a step ahead of us. Like today, they are hard to grasp and to keep up with. We sit back and try to soberly analyze and understand, yet the violent event passes us by and changes everything that comes after it. A man attempting to enter the Louvre with a knife, stopped by the bullet of a French soldier. He may have been stopped but the ramifications of the symbolic attempt of a terror attack in the Louvre can’t be stopped. The event is ahead of us, beyond us, a disruption on the face of normalcy, like a bullet, like today.

The site which is the Louvre, has seen so many transformations of use and distribution of power over the centuries, from a focal node of power and wealth, to a public urban space of gravitational cultural force, to a place where a French soldier shoots an armed man, to Today. A site without a place.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Can the Muse Speak? (La Belle Noiseuse 1991 Dir Jacques Rivette)

I was sitting in a café, a beautiful man came in and sat at the table right in front of mine. I had my sketchbook and I wanted to turn him into my model. I went to his table and asked him if I could do it, he agreed. I spent the next few minutes trying to sketch him, but he wouldn't look at me. He completely ignored my gaze, his face showed irritation and apathy. I felt so humiliated, I've realized that I've allowed myself to exploit someone else's space for the sake of "art."   
  (Bodies Buried Under Masterpieces)   

The nude, and the female nude in particular has a very complex history in western art. We normally delve into the way women were represented throughout history and the way their image has been constructed in different contexts, but we rarely talk about the women who model for the paintings which can be well known masterpieces. Most of these women are unknown, and what's left of them is an art object which stands the test of time, their bodies have either withered away or have been disfigured by the experience of modelling for an artist. The exclusion of female artists from the Art Canon and drawing an image of the woman as only capable of being the "muse," a fantasy created by a male dominated world, goes hand in hand with the negligence of the tough exploitive labor the model is subjected to. The result is a disfigured representation and a disfigured body.     

Female artists strained behind their canvases and spent their lives seeking recognition for their mastery and innovation, while models strained and stretched and posed for hours, so that men would end up getting masterpieces to pile up on the bodies of women.   

(Can the Muse Speak?)    

In The Beautiful Trouble Maker (1991) a four-hour long film by the French director Jacques Rivette, the masterpiece remains an unknown enigma holding the title of the movie, yet the muse speaks. Driven by an urge to complete a work  he had left undone for ten years, a painting which has transformed his relationship with wife Liz when she modeled for him, Eduoarad Frenhofer (Michel Piccoli), chooses Marianne (Emmanuelle Beart) the girlfriend of a visiting artist, to model for him.  Amidst the apparent serenity of the French countryside, the film lays out relationships that are charged with tensions and disparities. The power struggle between the figures of the artist, the model, the art dealer, and even the artist's partner are illuminated throughout the film, while revolving around the myth of the work of art as Truth.    

The muse speaks and suffers physically and emotionally right before our eyes breaking the idealized representation we normally see in paintings, and we spend the longest duration of the film watching Marianne reclaim her body. It's interesting to note that all the characters in the film are called by their first names, while Frenhofer is the only character with a full name, highlighting his status as the Artist, the creator of masterpieces. Yet Rivette's film remains a necessary exploration of the creative process, and the way an artist's obsessions and eccentricities tamper with the lives of those who are before the canvas.   

(A Dangerous Game) 

The film opens with the scene of a serious game, the game of playing out roles. Nicolas (David Bursztein), a young artist visiting the master Frenhofer in the rural French province of Languedic-Rousillon with his "lover" Marianne, sits in a café sketching a tourist. His gaze steals away at her features, turning them into lines and values of texture, while she chats with her friend. At the terrace, Marianne covertly is taking snap-shots of Nicolas, hiding behind tree leaves and pillars making sure he doesn't see her, performing the same voyeurism he's acting out on the tourist. When he had finally caught her, he chased her down to his table and asked her what was she doing? She said she was switching roles.    

Right from the beginning the volatile nature of Marianne, and her playful desire to shake up roles and reclaim her autonomy is in stark contrast with the rigid role she has been molded into. We see the typical casting of women as partners of great or aspiring male artists, while their careers are portrayed in a way which makes them seem insignificant. "I write children's books."     

Later that day they meet the art dealer Porbus (Gilles Arbona), the one who measures art by it's capital value, to go on a visit that would maim their relationship and rekindle Frenhofer's inspiration to open up the wounds left by what is claimed to be his masterpiece. They're welcomed into the rural conclave by his wife Liz (Jane Birkin), the woman who had inspired the major portion of his artistic creation, allowing him to exhaust her body, and put their love and happiness into jeopardy. A dangerou game called art.

(Three Men, One Body)

Liz has a studio of her own, she preserves the bodies of dead animals and portrays their corpses in aesthetically pleasing arrangements. She spends hours with them, the feathers, the furs, all adorned with precision in chemicals and glossy paints. Sacrifices on the altar of art. When Porbus enters her sanctuary, her museum, he tells her that "animals pose too." Frenhofer had made her pose for years. If these animals had been alive to see their revealed representations they would have proclaimed: "This is me, a dead cold thing.”  

They all eagerly wait when Frenhofer finally arrives, holding the body of a dead rabbit which swings in sync with his arm like a brush stroke, and without giving his guests much attention he passes them by. We are then taken to the dinner table where Frenhofer stares intensely at his next prey. “Would you accept losing him for a painting?” he asks Marianne, as if he realizes the absurdity of his endeavor, the loss of a person for the sake of a painting. Investing a painting with such a huge significance, and giving it the status of an ultimate Truth that is beyond the bodies of those around him, while paradoxically in desperate need for a body to rummage through so it would surface, allows Frenhofer to spew all kinds of cliches about art when he takes them up to his studio.   

Late at night, the three men meet at the atelier. In a scene which looks more like criminals conspiring for a murder in a film noir, Frenhofer asks Nicolas if he could allow Marianne to pose for him. The art dealer is all ears for the answer, for him the painting has a monetary value which rises with the myth of the artist as master and the work of art as masterpiece. It’s baffling that either at the dinner table or in the secrecy of the stone walls of his studio, Frenhofer had to bring Nicolas into the equation when Marianne’s body was in question. Three men, and the body is Marianne’s.   

(Crucified on the wood of a canvas)

Marianne gets mad at Nicolas for giving an artist the permission to tear her apart. She nonetheless walks into the trap at ten in the morning. The movie lasts four hours, we spend most of the movie’s length in Frenhofer’s studio. “We want the truth in painting, it’s cruel!” He had the title from the beginning, all he needed now was the body, and truth beyond that body. He makes a sketch of her dressed, then a sketch of her face. “Don’t stare at me like that, it disturbs me.” I see her struggle with her body as it is being turned into lines. He too struggles with the sketch book: he makes rough lines with black ink, then wets his brush and smudges black paint on different places on the paper. They both are anxiety ridden: he might lose his masterpiece, she might lose herself. The stakes are high with every sketch, with every canvas being rolled out and pinned on wood.  He tells her to stand straight, that she nust have been taught to stand straight, and she hurts immensely, we watch as either a tear or a sweat slides on her face while she bites the pain away. "They must have taught you how to stand straight  

“There’s a robe up there.” She comes back a female nude. “the female body has so often been identified with the body as such.” As time passes, Marianne’s body takes different poses and shapes, each more difficult to hold on to: still life. His sketches are like Man Ray’s Photographs: a woman without a head who has feet peeking out of her ass. Frenhofer tells Marianne, that as a kid he used to enjoy dismembering dolls. He tells her he wants what’s beyond the nudity, the truth, the blood. The first day ends, she tells Nicolas that Frenhofer has changed her.  

The next day she goes back, she decides to take over by reclaiming the space of his studio and arranging her body as she pleases. She brings the mattress and prepares to pose. Marianne wants to seize control, she wants to lose herself on her own terms. But the space gets more tense, tenser than her limbs. The poses get harder, and her arm keeps loosening as she snatches a cigarette.  “You can’t smoke now we have work to do.” She tells him how his studio reminds her of her time at the boarding school, she wasn’t allowed to do anything. Being the troublemaker she is, they both get drunk, she is still posing but he can’t pin her down anymore. “I keep losing you, oh I found you again.” She slips between lost and found. But he doesn’t want her, he wants the truth, the blood. 

The painting remains unknown, Frenhofer seals it behind a wall. The film gives the last words to Marianne, the work was revealed to her, her face turned pale and she ran away in horror.  The muse speaks: "This is me, a dead cold thing.”  

Friday, October 21, 2016

Becomings: The Cat at the Bottom of the Valley

In this dead city where I live, there are plenty of places where one can scream, or that's how I percieve them. I have learned the ritual of screaming from my mother, ten years ago we were in an empty park at 7AM, she stepped down from the car, stood near a guard rail which overlooks a dead valley, and she let out a loud monotonous scream, it didn't echo, nothing replied but I remember feeling really embarressed. The air swallowed the scream and covered me with heavy density, I didn't have the power back then to scream back at the air and shatter that heavy cloud of sound into small pieces. Scream-becoming-heavy-air.

Last night we went to the same spot, parked the car and walked together to stand before the same dark valley. My mother screamed, her scream was low pitched, agonzied and muffled. Nothing replied, no echo. So I took her scream and amplified it tenfolds: It was really loud, lasted about a minute, till it scratched my larynx. There was no echo, but my scream had to turn into something else, a scream never dies out, it morphes into different shapes that can be intangible. I heard a cat yowling, I yowled back. It was somemwehre down the dark valley, it heard my scream and turned it into a series of frantic sounds. The cat and I, kept meowing at eachother for more than five minutes, throwing my scream back and forth as if it's a repulsive thing no one wants to catch. Scream-becoming-cat-sounds.

My mother went to the car and brought some water and food for the cat, we went down together but the cat escaped in fear when it saw us, took our screams and ran away.

                                                *photo by me

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

On Becoming a Part of Leslie Jamison's Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain

I dreamed that I wanted to write about my life with my brother, that he hit me and instead of feeling pain I exclaimed "Ah, I need to write about this!" and my sister told me that I should stop exploiting other people's stories for my own writing. But it's my story and mine alone, and it's my writing, my reading of my story. Does that mean that the story has been already "written" and I'm simply reading it? does that mean that I am after all, exploiting the stories of "others"? I've actually dreamed that my brother fell from his room's window and that I saw him sitting on the window sill with his face towards mine, he closed his eyes and then dropped back. I couldn't save him, I went to the window and he was down, I told him to move his legs and he did. I realized I was still dreaming, nothing really happened. In my dream I exclaimed "Ah, I need to write about this!" and my sister told me that I should stop exploiting other people's stories for my own writing. But I need to tell this story and I don't care about it's origin. I've always thought that writing about (my) life and (my) pain would entail exploiting the people I live with and around, and that it would turn me into someone who keeps dwelling over her own suffering, that it would turn me into a show.  But pain is not mine alone, I feel it because I am a part of a large mesh of criss-crossing pain, and because I can give my pain over to others, like a gift, even if they can't "see" it.   
Yesterday, I've written for the first time in Arabic. Arabic is my (mother) tongue, this is how "native language" is translated to in Arabic. They have told me that I have a mother tongue and I've laughed in their faces, a menacing laugh and walked away. I had no idea that going back to it, getting closer to it, would be so painful. The distance language entails is painful, and I gasp for words, The reader would sense the heaviness that drenched every word I tried to conjure up. It was hard but I had to feel pain in order to write.
I fell in love for the first time when I was fifteen years old, he broke my heart. I stopped eating, I cried for weeks and I remember telling the story of this breakup to everyone I've talked to. Over and over again, I repeated how much hurt I feel and how much pain he had caused me. I think 
I've done that not as a mechanism of healing, but more to tell people that I am a person with deep feelings who has the ability to suffer, I did it to feel better about who I am. I had no idea back then that this repetitive showcasing of pain, might have repulsed everyone around me, that it had been a cliche. I just knew, and still think that I had a right to my pain and that everyone should listen to me, LISTEN TO ME. My pain is grand and it's real and it deserves the attention of the world.   
I happen to ruthlessly defend the poetry of Sylvia Plath, and 
every time I do that I feel that I'm doing something as rebellious as starting a revolution. The other day, a friend of mine posted that Sylvia Plath is a "Tragedy of a woman who committed suicide, nothing more." I was so enraged and I honestly felt like crying. He hadn't even read her. "Would Sylvia Plath be as famous today if she hadn't committed suicide?" Sylvia Plath's suicide has taken the status of being almost a part of her oeuvre. She has indeed written many poems on and about her suicide attempts, she has written Ariel shortly before her death. We can't reduce anyone to their suicide, but why view her suicide as a reduction? It is a "tragedy" in one sense, but in another it's a culmination point of pain. It's a protest of a writer who has been locked inside a repititve day-to-day routine: between writing poetry, taking care of her kids and doing her chores. Her suicide is a part of her ongoing story, it's not her reduction point, it's a point opening to infinity"I have done it again/ One year in every ten/ I manage it--"   One year in every ten.  In Ariel, she had already turned her I into grains of wheat, an infinite landscape. "And now I/ Foam to wheatThe devotedness with which Van Gogh had repeatedly kept painting fields of wheat, populating them with dream worlds, reapers, sunflowers with the "unheard of power of the sunflower seeds" as Deleuze describes the becomings in Van Gogh paintings, houses, a rising moon, and crows. He painted from the Asylum window, framing these wheat fields when he was losing his ability to utter "I." "And now I/ Foam to wheat" Deleuze had written that "A sunflower seed lost in a wall is capable of shattering that wall." Van Gogh broke the walls of the asylum with his wheat fields. In Ariel Sylvia writes "The child's cry/Melts in the wall/ And I/ Am the arrow"  Her "I" is an arrow which goes beyond the wall, beyond, and reaches the red of the sun. Pain ad infinitum, pain as liberation.