Incitement to a Book Burning, proposal from Alejandro Ventura

[A correspondent sends us the following proposal in response to the themes and problematics of the poetry and/or revolution conference]


Exhibition Proposal, Working Document
October 2013

“Where books are burned, in the end people will burn.”

—Heinrich Heine, 1821

Dear Curator:

As you are aware, the current state of affairs exists to conflate categories of thought such as poetry and social relations, public discourse and private wish-fulfillment, community and individual, art and criticism, and so on and so forth, until we are left digging graves.

As Marx said, there is no such thing as a metaphysical problem, yet here we are, mired in all this bullshit about the laboring subject needing poetry to overcome his or her subjugation to capital, whatever that means. What those of us who know what we want are after is precisely this system, transformed to serve our needs. Unfortunately, as Freud said, people are disposed to get off on their symptoms. Or, put differently, as Lacan said, no one has a theory about what happens beyond neurosis. Or, as Zizek said, what we lack is sympathy with thought. Or, as Joshua Clover said, we are living in this world. Or, as Josef Kaplan said, shoot the kids in the head. Or, as Big L put it, fuck love, all I got for bitches is hard dick and bubblegum.

This is as good a place as any to recall that Wittgenstein, the greatest of all billionaire Marxists, attempted to emigrate to the Soviet Union before coming to his beloved senses and remembering his fabulous life at Cambridge.

Our so-called “crisis” is a simple mechanism: the confusion of the order of things, the exile of materialism from thought. As in the mainstream public discourse, nothing is more taboo than materialism in the fantasyland of magical-Leftist, Harry Potter-Marxist poetry or philosophy. I for one would much rather have a drink with my friends on Wall Street, than with the so-called community of “progressive” poets, who are rightly perceived from the outside as a bunch of child-people.

But I digress.

In sum, I am after the acceleration of the exhaustion of idealisms in this society. That is the task I have set out for myself. No matter how resolute some of us have been in our attempts to murder poetry, it will not stay dead. I have racked my brain recently as to what, if any, critical work or symbolic act might bring about in this especially metastasized discourse the desired effects of silence, laughter, and most of all, the sense of getting-on-with-it.

I propose the construction and installation of incinerators for the burning of poetry books in as many art galleries as possible. These can take the form of modified industrial kitchen ovens with improvised conveyor belts. At present I am of the mind that the apparatus should be constructed in such a manner that it automatically collects the ashes of burned books in urns, so that poets may have a keepsake in which to drown their sorrows.

Poetry is dead, long live poetry.

Alejandro Ventura

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