Photo by Charles Bernstein
February 12th, 2019
Hauser & Wirth Gallery, NYC
Organized by Zoe Brezsny
Long-time friends, Cecilia Vicuña and Will Alexander came together for the first time to read and discuss their many varied involvements. The night was luminous thanks to their intensely powerful offerings, thanks to the snow and sleet that pronounced winter as precipitative abundance, thanks to the caring curation by Zoe Brezsny who gave in-depth introductions, and thanks to the communal energies of an intergenerational audience spell-bound and motivated by the night.
Both Cecilia and Will imparted a diagnostic psychosomatic methodology that took the form of spells and pronouncements capable of bringing attention to the precariousness of earthly existence without shutting down or shutting out the terror of our predicament, and the acknowledgement of our human culpability. Their shimmering rhythmic speech explicating and complicating “the glossary of vertigo” (WA). Their complimentary sonic projections strengthened and enlivened bonds of earthliness. It is important and necessary to be reminded of our agency as humans, that whatever we *do* is a form of worlding, that every utterance, every gesture is consequential, radiates within and throughout. Will spoke at length about the trajectory from “internal or interior technologies” to “mechanisms” where the somatics of earthly interrelation is replaced by forms that are disconnective. He began his reading by listing overlapping and successive genocides and the warped rationality that made it possible for denigration and mass killing to take place. The Doctrine of Discovery is one such stark example of the justification used for death on an epic scale. After unspooling the historical lineage of genocidal mayhem and clarifying how it has led to our present moment in time when the entire life on the planet is faced with a dire prognosis he emphasized that “weather is our main concern”. I’m reminded of a recent white paper I read titled “Earth system impacts of the European arrival and Great Dying in the Americas after 1492” that claims that the genocidal actions toward Indigenous people by white colonial settlers in the Americas caused climate change to take effect.
A joint chapbook printed for the occasion of this reading contains a lengthy sequence from Will’s epic poem (that spans hundreds of pages) called “Concerning the Henbane Bird. Ungular magic that flows out of “geologic premonition” finds its way into “darkened planetary minds”. He mentioned how he enjoys The Blue Planet series narrated by David Attenborough. This poem is electrifyingly beautiful as it conjures earth’s liveliness on land and sea.
each species suffering
with its identity blurred
with its evolution misfocused
amidst disfigured bone yards
missing condors & pumas
along with broken burial Wrens
the body of fauna being toneless platique
the oldest ‘millipedes’ from ‘the Devonian’
a ‘placoderm’ which ceases to breed
blurred ‘amphibia’ from the Mississippi
all exit as dazed Locusts
as aquatic Salamander deaths in the midst of the Permian
I’m feeling the sea that enlivens
the sea that vivifies misfortune
this is life
listening to sand
listening to its tumultuous commotion of kelp including coral reefs
including sea grass beds
including conflict with land
& on land
the grass burning with sand fleas
with sail-backed polycosaurs
seen from a floating optical core
watching the sea tables poisoned
always viewing with hieratic alacrity
with vatic incessance
the blinded toxins in carnivorous ravines
Will talked about the presencing and cognitional telepathic energy that courses through the entirety of the space-time continuum. Life on the planet is a cosmic experience. The mundane or banal is often a site of generative energy — “irruptive lucidity”. He told us a story about how once when he was crossing the street, in the middle of the crosswalk he was flooded with language and meaning. The sensation of noticing the intimate shifts and changes of environment in self and self as environment recalls Laraaji’s song, “All of a Sudden”:
All of a sudden
It’s another time
In another world
And another state of mind
All of a sudden
It’s another self
It’s another vibration
It’s another state of seeing…
Will’s work is all about refamiliarizing oneself with cosmic identity. Where am I? you might ask…always already within a cosmic holism! Sun Ra was evoked — Ra’s mighty ability to act as guide and conduit to the immensity of the cosmos without departing planet earth physically. Like Ra, as in Will’s poems, the multiples are multiplexes radianting vagaries, spotlighting tertiary temples, galactic sticking points, and singing and ringing as cacophony opens the domes.
The takeaway message as spirit address from Will: “You have to write in terms of total reality. So in other words, writing is a guerrilla experience. Someone said that being a poet in the time of zero civilization is a revolutionary act itself. Just to get away from the dossiers and all the other effluvium…” The everyday is an explicit connector to the numinous — the sacred and profane commingle.
Cecilia read after Will. Her voicings cascaded and crescendoed from a whispered, hushed near-silence to a high-pitched bird call, intoned shamonically, mythically, actually. “Iridescence is word we should use more often” she said and read a poem titled “Iridesce”:
Cecilia talked about the Amazonian rainforest and how it is being decimated to make way for the industrial production of soy, for instance… The felling of trees leads to the disappearance of everyone — the sentient beings who call the forest their home as well as everyone on the globe. There is no skirting this approaching reality. With gentle tenderness she spelled out the dire scenario of death-in-life. Her poem, “The Round Spring” details the subtlety of interconnective holism:
Mist is the semen of the mountains
Where the streams are born
Mist is the semen of the forest
Where coolness is born
The forests that are the lungs of planet earth are being eradicated. When any element is tampered with, damaged and destroyed all sentient life is made vulnerable. She talked about
“the Guarani of the rain forest in Paraguay and Brazil [who] say that when the mist and the forest are gone, we will all be gone.” It is crucial to maintain the commons of breathing. The breathing of myriad diversified ecologies and the persons that coexist in overlapping habitats. “Inhalation and exhalation, the world’s heart beating in a common language of perception”.
During the discussion that followed her reading Cecilia mentioned how, three times a day she practices the yogic corpse pose (savasana) to familiarize herself with death and to detach from the computer which has a stranglehold on life. Death is thought of absolute in a Western European context. Cecilia pointed out how most cultures do not think of death as a terminal end, but rather part of a cyclical motion of coming and going in and out of being. Troubled by extinction on a massive scale makes it urgent to contemplate the paradigm of death and dying. Total die outs of flora and fauna operate outside of cyclicality, spelling a different terminal phase. She warned about the implications of the abuses of earth’s sustenance.
Cecilia’s work contains the repetitions of prophecy. The weaving of oracular truths reawakens psychic and corporeal networks of identification. A demonstration of interconnected meaning with a “time bending tongue entwine the betwixt double thread”. Like a day that is completely unique but repeats the sense of dailiness, a prophecy awakens truth severally in againness. Prophecy brings the past, present and future into a focused whole.
and its thirst
Humanity is searching for its missing tale/tail, the actual practice of being humane. Doctrinaire rationality and the insulated and supremacist logos that pits “enlightened man” against all others — the world itself, has been a tragedy in the unmaking of what was sustainable myriad diversification. The first stage of grief is denial and isolation. The second stage is anger, as the “masking effects of denial and isolation begin to wear away.” These emotional responses are in the air. The disappointments of a failing world model sponsored by exploitation and industrial death beg of new modalities. The wiggle room of necessity is a seed that unfurls spaciously in Will and Cecilia’s work. I am so thankful to share time on planet earth with both of them!