acceleration x acceleration

                                            Left and right, in both directions, a long                                               road runs past his vantage point
                                            —elliott burns, isthisit?

2017 was two images, connected—as if by a single velvet thread—across a span of days. this is an oversimplification. everything i will say will be an oversimplification. this is perhaps a good or necessary or an unavoidable thing .

shouldering out of the grained blue, a woman—dressed in a white shirt bearing the phrase ‘LOL’ in spidery shaded purple—would become one of this year’s most improbable and recognisable portraits. a young, vaguely disinterested woman, together with her accomplice, who would put a poison-soaked cloth onto the mouth of Kim Jong-nam, the eldest son of the former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

what happens when an image exits a hidden circulation—an image intimate or foreboding enough that its appearance in the blitzed penumbra of live, publicly consumed images presents still a kind of morbid shock. what is this image doing here? still the dumb belief that it is staged, unreal, an imitation evacuated from the theatre, the tv set, the film location?

a man, stands—shoulders thick set, bulbous—& opens his mouth into a slanted oval. he drinks, the vessel half-hidden. through the grainy low-resolution screen capture he could simply be inserting his fingers around his mouth, circling his lips as if to blow into a thin tunnel of skin. but this is an absurdity, probably. he drinks poison. this is—less absurd?

the man is slobodan praljak, a Bosnian Croat commander who had, moments before, been convicted of multiple war crimes at the hague. a 20-year sentence stood before him. he did not remove his body—in that moment—from existence. his death would come only later, once the poison had taken hold. the image continues to circulate. i can’t distinguish defiance from rage, rage from fear.

an image enters circulation—enters an elevated space within visual circulation. we are used to the dour faces of the convicted. ‘they showed no emotion as the sentence was read’. the formula, broken. a face—ending itself, becoming haunting, a haunting—entered the language of suspense, confusion, distaste, humour. the image slipped into the blond-white currents of internet fascinated indifference. it entered the lock-jaw of a meme

            and then was spat out by it ... ..

another image, this time plastic, feral. a green frog, snide wet grin licking its features. pepe the frog shuddered—was taken, underground, and thrust back into visibility; not as a sign of gazy, stoner blasé, but as a grimacing figurehead for the world’s now no longer nascent alt-right. pepe became an image of unslick crime, taking position in a world (our world), which itself is now anchored within a state of continual lols, irony as a blunt baton by which a cartoon has become, quite literally, a hate symbol. its creator, in an effort to ‘save’ pepe from criminality & harm, failed to kill it except within the bland white frame of a comic book strip. pepe was already a zombie, already multiplied beyond death. the creator—or, perhaps, the tangible connection between creator and creation—had snapped.

                the animals sink their bright                                        mouths into a { loud } sea         

a man’s back obscures a hanging painting. photographers lean in to capture not the oil painting itself, but the man whose body—temporarily—obstructs it. dana schutz’s 2016 painting, ‘open casket’, is a gruesome depiction of Emmett Till, the 14-year old teenager who was beaten and lynched on the false accusation of flirting with a white woman, taking place in mississippi in 1955. schutz’s painting, disavowing realism, disarticulates and renders Till’s broken body into broken, geometric lozenges, smeared continuities. hanging in the Whitney Biennal Exhibition, the painting was obscured by African American artist parker bright, who stood in front of the image—thus creating another, distinct image, an image cancelling an image—wearing a shirt which bore the slogan: ‘Black Death Spectacle’. Hannah Black, a British artist, demanded that the work ‘be destroyed and not entered into any market or museum’. the argument is that, quite undeniably, Schutz appropriated Till’s gruesome blooding and rendered it into the marketable apparel of blocky abstraction. even if the heart was in the right place, the invisible structures of power again, without regard, defaced the black body in an environment where similar bodies have, over the past years, been repeatedly defaced: no, murdered. the body on display, as were the so-many bodies of black men and children being gunned down in police body-cam footage. face down, face up.

        my ship of life has crashed upon the    rocks           of life ,,,
            also of life , also

such imagery entered the slipstream of arthur jafa’s pulsing video installation, housed within a dark, plastic canvas tent at the summit of 180 the strand. the looping, cycling video—Love is the Message, The Message is Death—is a 7 minute video set to Kanye West’s ‘ultralight beam’. Scenes of LA riots, civil rights leaders, popular imagery of Black Music, replicating its power, its beauty, its alienation. the images—often torn directly from video hosting platforms such as YouTube and Vimeo, still wearing the gory traces of low-res compression and branded watermarks—speak to the intensification of the circulation of such images within the culturally continuous now, accessed by these black, indifference lozenges into which we pour, drag, swipe, press. a blank screen, with or without direction, will continually generate a playlist of grimacing moments, slung somewhere between sadness and celebration. ‘up next’ leads either into violence or abstraction.  

            today i wrote nothing—DK

a bus travelling not even miles from the syrian border. this is turkey, in 2015. the bus has not long left the city of Gaziantep. it is travelling east. during the night—we fell asleep, uncomfortable & too warm—myself and my friend were dragged quickly from sleep. two white flashes on the distance, which may have travelled miles and miles or seconds only. a bombing raid in the still darkness. they wouldn’t be the last images we saw which plastered themselves onto our memories—the empty highroad which plummeted south to aleppo; empty of any traffic. a ghost road entering a city both of the living and the dead.

                        and think ; she wanted storms

images escape the graves they are made in to. images drift free, or are ripped out from—2017 is two images. it is the meta-data buried within the image. acts of violence break forward suddenly & unexpectedly, willed by their creators—or they accidentally slip free, falling out of clumsy fingers, and then are screen-grabbed with the trident manoeuvre of three fingers, the palm wards swipe of a smartphone’s capture; dismissing something into the perpetual archive of images we accumulate, and cannot even begin to account for.

sophie calle, her objective to plunge into the intimacies & lives of strangers (photographs made, covertly, within hotel rooms, on 35mm film), are overtaken by images which seem to enter the deep churning powder of the visual economy through almost accidental breaking away. there are so many images, that entropy begins to drag the planet apart into the pulverised continuum of the ring of saturn. artists shoulder back into, into, into them—

                “The past is a life sentence, a blunt                             instrument aimed at tomorrow”—claudia                 rankine

Kim Jong-nam’s killers claim that they believed they were participating in a reality TV show—part of a deranged but meaningless parlour game.

                    time was a wave, almost                     —                        han kang

            a wave almost .

in her examination into trauma & healing, sophie collins quotes the poet chelsey minnis; ‘the past should go away but never does’. the present should go away—shred into the infinite scrap-mass—but it doesn’t always.

sam riviere—in his safe mode—speaks to the need to have ‘a little pain, a pet pain. a constant steady pulse in one of my fingers, say … a pain i can safely encompass and control’

                            the white monkeys watch me from                                 a pylon —sophie collins

the alternative is a pain which accumulates—accumulates and does not dissolve. images wrench forth moments of private pain, private carcass-smelling horror, and flood-light them. we are ill-equipped to know what to do with them—often we just, simply, smirk, more out of anxiety than of humour. nothing here is funny.

back in Turkey, we visited—in Diyabakir—a now empty and unused Armenian church. its walls were built from bright black volcanic stone. white powdery threads distinguished each block from the next, thin little bars which brought the structure together. after 1915, and the turkish genocide of Armenian christians, the church fell out of use. a pomegranate tree does not grow in the courtyard, but in the hotel we stayed in much later, within an Armenian house which had been repossessed and turned into a hotel. a pomegranate tree grew in the courtyard, and i wondered about how culpable we were, staying here. from the balcony of mardin, you could see the entire plain of Syria. fighter planes leered and searched across the very blueness of the sky. silently, they shot across its night. a man said how, when the light was fine, you could see all the lights of Beirut. i didn’t believe him.

the fields far ahead of me in endless pudding, studded here and there with what had been: homes and houses, hair and heirlooms, habits, hallways, hauntings, hope—blake butler, scorch atlas

teju cole—entering the world of performance, unstitching from the page—wakes from a bed placed beneath a projection of ceaselessly circulating images, each inflected with the traumatics of the current age, the past year. the screen goes blank and, pushing himself upward, he screams. i liked that cole had had enough with just writing for now, and that the summation of that—of removing himself into images, into their nightmaredreamflux—was literally to just scream.

when i begin listing images, the images which have stuck in place, over a year—a year in which i have paid more and considered attention to images than ever before, as i began to unglue myself from writing only, only—i feel the faint anxiety that i am missing out on certain of these images. the impossibility of capturing them all. but have i forgotten images which i should not have forgotten? has my judgement lapsed, or not? when i begin thinking about the images which i have thought about, i begin to not see any images—but rather a thick slur of colour, half-turned faces, dismissed and rejected bodies. i see the clotted, psyched black canvases of dirk braeckman, which i had been so positively positively excited to witness in venice, during the summer, and how i went back and back to the same room and idled there. it was air-conditioned, but even then was mostly empty. it was too—not present. we were witnessing hauntings, grey soft curtains folding down against plains of grey skin. the denuded heavy pile carpet of his T.A.-A.N.-96 from 1996. images which reflect on the status of making images and of looking at images. made onto baryta paper, the walls a shocking white, i watch the carpet stretch into a kind of blackness/blankness that reminds me of under the skin, that alien crushing drowning space in which the skin prickles at the thought of being a body made, forgotten, into being unmade.

now all of the trees at the bottom of my girlfriend’s mother’s house have been pulled out, and you can see very far——the smudged prickle of distant hills, the uncoated blank branches which make wire shapes against the very shivering sky. actually i can see a screen—a tv, a laptop? what?—in the window of a distant house. i almost imagine—but no, no—the window reflected there &c my own face; a woman, her white jumper drifting down her spread-apart arms, run down a flight of airport stairs—and, even with the reversed image in the mirror-mirror, it still reads L O L.

        why aren’t we talking more of that?
        —maggie nelson

OWENGV / LDN, UK / 2k18.0777