Playing in the ruins of the expo, there were broken-down robots
They weren’t for a film, they had functions
— Kenji Yanobe
Pamphlets fall from the sky, full of narrative theories. Equidistant from Los Alamos and Roswell, workers place polished steel poles in the desert landscape, constructing a grid. The land is not the setting for the work but a part of it. The poles are angled at eighty-eight degrees else lightning always strikes twice. The primary experience takes place within the grid. Weather is total.
One narrative theory is that Agents are social beings. The grid is the imaginary frame by which it becomes possible to sense the spatial landscape. The grid dwarfs Agents, the grid in turn being dwarfed by the landscape, provoking Agents to realize their own relation to the spatial landscape. In that the grid itself cannot be fully comprehended in its totality, neither can the spatial landscape. Castles are sand that can’t be shelter to kings. In that the spatial landscape cannot be fully comprehended in its totality, neither can there be kings. Jackrabbits nibbling on apple cores are nervously aware that there can’t be shelter from weather. Humility is nervous awareness of Agents not being jackrabbits.
There are three agents in the landscape who are not kings. The Agents’ relation to the grid becomes paramount. Agent Red’s scale becomes paramount. Agent Yellow’s isolation becomes paramount. Agent Orange’s silence becomes paramount. Humility is nervous awareness of Agents not being kings. The invisible is real.
The spatial relation of the sky to the landscape is such that the clouds are pressed flat against an imaginary plane of glass. The imaginary plane rests flat upon the tips of the grid-poles. One narrative theory is that Agents’ minds function as the imaginary plane. The action is the work, weathered within the social bearings. So-called natural elements are grounding such that Agents’ social being, in being dwarfed, is also grounded. That this is not separate from Agents’ social bearings, but rather central to Agents’ realization as social beings, is one effect. Jackrabbits nibbling on apple cores are nervously aware that lightning always strikes twice. Humility is nervous awareness of Agents not being total. The work takes place within the social grid. Distance is total.
One narrative theory is that one never dies in photographs. Equidistant from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the artist Kenji Yanobe builds nuclear-safe capsules inside of which he is photographed while being in Chernobyl—see several examples here. That the artist Kenji Yanobe would be in Chernobyl inhabiting sculptural objects for the ostensible sake of safety is troubling to one. That the photographs of the artist Kenji Yanobe inside nuclear-safe capsules while being in Chernobyl are aesthetically pleasing is also troubling to one.
One narrative theory is that in desiring the apocalypse it is continually deferred. The artist Kenji Yanobe builds nuclear-safe capsules for sexual acts. Such acts are expressed outward as exhalations of perfumed music, compressed air modulated through anthropomorphic trumpets, so-called safe sex ironized into cartoon farts. That nuclear-safe capsules for sexual acts are aesthetically pleasing is troubling to one.
One narrative theory is that one’s apocalypse is inside. Such apocalypse is not nuclear-safe, such art is a cartoon that is actual. Agents inside nuclear-safe capsules are not safe from themselves. Agents cannot be insulated in machines that are cartoon, in art that farts its own radioactivity. The numbers on the meter go up and up. Like flagpoles do.
There are three Agents in the capsules who are not cartoons. Agent Red drinks the capsule fuel. Agent Yellow eats the capsule waste. Agent Orange breathes the capsule air. That the technology necessary to provide safety for Agents is the same technology that produces the effects from which Agents desire safety is troubling, three, to one. Capsules are cartoon machines that can’t be shelter to kings. There are no kings, only Agents.
The sky is always in relation to Agents’ landscape. Even underground, though that’s a dream. In dreams Agents’ own minds are the relation of the imaginary plane to Agents’ own underground landscape. The grid’s function is to provoke Agents’ realization of Agents’ own landscape in actuality. The grid exists so as to become invisible. The grid exists so that it doesn’t have to. Shelter is context. Dreams are real.
One narrative theory is that the sun never sets. Agent Yellow, from a distance, disappears into the horizon. Agent Red, from a distance, becomes part of the landscape. Agent Orange, from a distance, is still here, where the air meets the soil. Perspective is constitutive of Agents’ social being. Total perspective is awareness that can’t be shelter to nervous kings.
Being dwarfed is perspective that reduces distances between social beings. Relations between social beings provoke social bearings within the grid-work. Roswell and Los Alamos are two landscapes that provoke such social bearings. That the historical landscape dwarfs Agents, provoking such social bearings, is troubling to one. Social bearings realize social grids that produce the social landscape. Hiroshima and Nagasaki are two landscapes that provoke such social bearings. That Agent Red might become grounded, in its isolation, is one effect. That Agent Yellow might become grounded, in its social being, is one effect. That Agent Orange might become grounded, in its social bearings, is one effect. The social grid is constructed by the many social beings. Its construction is relational to the many social bearings. The sun never sets on the historical landscape. Grid-work is context for shelter from history. The work is never ending.
Sentry posts guard the perimeter. Dystopia is this topia, the cynically willed non-place of the apocalyptic imaginary. Its filmy visuals are projected onto the imaginary plane of glass that lies flat upon the social grid. Sentries adjust jackrabbit ears to get a better signal. The falling sky is the image of the impending apocalypse. Its spectral traces appear transparent when viewed from the ground up. The sky is always falling, else the bottom falls out. Social beings labor at constructing the grid to support the imaginary plane. Agent-sweat is radioactive. The sentries drink it as refreshment while awaiting the coming attractions.
One narrative theory is that one never dies in film. At the end of a long day of grid-work it is nice to lie on the ground and watch the bottom of the sky fall onto the imaginary plane. The ground is the imaginary plane of consciousness upon which social beings construct the social grid. Nervous awareness is the nightmare made material by social bearings in the historical landscape. The ideological grid exists so that it might become invisible. The ideological grid exists so that it doesn’t have to. The invisible is reel-to-reel.
One narrative theory is that Agents are never awake, except in history. Underground is buried history, as dream-work. At night it dreams itself through rabbit-holes into the social grid. Nightmares are in actuality the history that Agents desire to have merely dreamt. Jackrabbits nibbling at nuclear cores are nervously aware that history always strikes twice. One narrative theory is that one never dies in dreams. Humility is nervous awareness of Agents awaking from dreams and being in history.
The artist Kenji Yanobe’s sculptural objects, in that they provide habitation in the form of objects of safety and of art, while at the same time being distancing, in that Agents are further distanced from the actual world, while still being in it, are troubling to one. That the artist Kenji Yanobe would be in Chernobyl inhabiting sculptural objects for the ostensible sake of art is troubling to one. That the art necessary to provide safety for Agents is the same art that produces the effects from which Agents desire safety, is troubling to one. Agents are never safe from themselves.
The artist Kenji Yanobe’s photographs, in that they document art providing safety, while at the same time being distancing, in that they are further distanced from Chernobyl, while still being in it, are troubling to one. The photographs are viewed outside of Chernobyl, in place of Chernobyl, as art and as safety. They are already happening, though in actuality they are not Chernobyl. Distance is safety. There’s no distance in actuality. There’s no safety.
The artist Kenji Yanobe has not yet built nuclear-safe capsules for jackrabbits nibbling apple cores. One narrative theory is that nervous awareness is not enough to prevent an apple core breach. That the wind from Chernobyl might kill the jackrabbits is troubling to one. That the repeated vocalization of “Chernobyl” might become aesthetically pleasing by virtue of its repetition is troubling to one. There are eighty-eight dead jackrabbits in the grid. Their bottoms have fallen out.
Sentries sleep in nuclear-safe capsules, making it difficult to hunt the jackrabbits. Radioactive sky-sweat leaks into the underground reservoirs, as fuel for dream-work. Pamphlets fall from the sky, onto the imaginary plane. One narrative theory is that the sentry posts face inward rather than outward. From each pole waves a banner advertising the coming attractions. One narrative theory is that there is no perimeter. Outward is inward.
Social beings that are also capsule-rabbits live in underground bomb shelters. Castles made of pamphlet bomb shreddings can’t be shelter for jackrabbits. Rabbit-sweat is radioactive. Agents drink it as refreshment while waiting for the sky to fall. The jackrabbits have infrared night vision that always strikes twice. That the wind from Los Alamos might kill the jackrabbits is troubling to one. The sentries put the eighty-eight dead jackrabbits into piles to climb up and up. In order to clean the imaginary plane for the coming attractions. That the repeated vocalization of “Los Alamos” might become aesthetically pleasing by virtue of its repetition is troubling to one.
One narrative theory is that dreams are underground nuclear tests. They mushroom into consciousness through rabbit-holes and anthropomorphic trumpets. Cartoon farts are air-raid sirens that go up and up. The detonation of the bombs is the thundering bass. It makes the bottom fall out when the sentries work their capsule oscillators. The oscillators are programmed to loop the vocalization of “Los Alamos” to a disco beat. The music is the bomb.
The underground container that shelters the radioactive warheads is called The Pit. The warheads are angled at eighty-eight degrees, else the bottoms fall out. Pit-sweat is radioactive. Agents drink it as refreshment while awaiting the music to begin. That the bottom would fall out onto Agents’ heads is troubling to one.
One narrative theory is that there is an underground disco called The Pit, where Agents push up and up. The keyboard is programmed to perform eighty-eight oscillating tones. The speed of sound is measured by the distance between lightning and its pole-dance. Agents work the dance floor, a grid of pulsing colors. Agent Red never strikes twice. Agent Yellow is not a rocket scientist. Agent Orange is the bomb.
The speed of sound is measured by the distance between the bomber and the detonation of its payload. The warhead is programmed to perform eighty-eight degrees of separation. Its coin slides into its slot. Its music is the bomb, whose bottom falls out. When the Pit pushes its payload up and up, the nightclub is history. Total disco, total inferno.
One narrative theory is that one never dies in sculpture. Kenji Yanobe’s sculptural objects evoke nostalgia for an apocalypse that hasn’t happened. It is nostalgia for a future that is continually deferred, sheltered in a present that hasn’t happened yet. The so-called-and-ever-wished-for last instance never arrives, and yet the present is-and-always-is this very last instance. The apocalypse is always happening.
One narrative theory is that one consumes or is consumed. The artist Kenji Yanobe has produced a never-ending simulation of a survival cart race, which will protect Agents from radioactivity as long as one keeps inserting coins into their nuclear-safe capsules. That Agents must exit the capsule in order to insert the coins into its exterior anthropomorphic coin slots is troubling to one. There is no future here, only the present, which enables Agents to survive as long as Agents keep consuming. Jackrabbits chew through the string that is used for the coin-slot coin trick. The only safety is to insert coins into another’s coin slots in hopes that the other will do the same. Distance is the opposite of safety.
The artist Kenji Yanobe stands at the sentry post, facing out toward the ruins of the future. Jackrabbits have infrared vision that can see through the nuclear-safe capsules. It’s a never-ending simulation of eighty-eight degrees inside. The capsules are lined with jackrabbit fur. Agent-sweat is radioactive. Sentries drink it as refreshment while awaiting the survival cart race.
The social grid exists so as to become invisible. The social grid exists so that it doesn’t have to. The imaginary plane stretches out into the distance, held up by the many social bearings. Social beings labor at building it inward. History never disappears.
The imaginary plane reaches from one pole to the next, grounded by the many social bearings. The present disappears into the historical landscape, though it’s still here. That such disappearance might be the forgetting of social bearings is troubling to one. Nightmares are for forgetting. Even underground, though that’s a nightclub, pushing up and up, as music for dream-work. History is the imaginary plane of not-yet-forgotten nightmares. Here it is now, stretching out into the distance, held up by the many social bearings.
The social grid disappears into the future. Social beings labor at building it outward. The apocalypse is continually deferred. That the social bearings necessary to destroy the grid are the same social bearings that build the grid is troubling to kings. Humility is nervous awareness that Agents are grid-workers in history.
The Agents are in their survival carts. The carts fart perfumed radioactivity through anthropomorphic trumpets. The music is air-raid sirens that go up and up. The rabbits’ infrared vision burns through the string that is used for the coin-slot coin trick. It’s a never-ending simulation of eighty-eight degrees inside the sentry posts. Sentry-sweat is radioactive. Agents drink it as refreshment while awaiting the coins to run out.
Agent Red puts its coin into Agent Yellow’s coin slot. Agent Yellow puts its coin into Agent Orange’s coin slot. Agent Orange puts its coin into Agent Red’s coin slot. There are no kings to make more coins, so the grid-poles are dismantled and melted into currency. Without the poles, the imaginary plane’s bottom falls out. The grid collapses into itself. Agents trade in their narrative theories for the few remaining coins. The sky is falling, up and up. The social bearings are detonated, delivering their payloads as dream-work. In the last instance coins fall to the ground in piles that go up and up. Like mushroom clouds do.
The sun is always setting. Agent Yellow’s survival cart is red. Agent Red’s survival cart is orange. Agent Orange’s survival cart is yellow. As they fuse into one another, the detonation provokes the nuclear sunset. From a distance the shutters click shut. That the sunset is an aesthetically pleasing film projected onto the imaginary plane is troubling to one.
One narrative theory is that there is always another narrative theory. Action is choosing. The film reel is stuck in the machine. The machine is the apocalyptic imaginary that desires its own meltdown. The so-called sunset is only the melting celluloid of one possible future. It’s never ending.
Choosing is action. New grids are being constructed by social beings with different social bearings. Action is choosing made material by certain social bearings. Humility is nervous awareness that action is total. It’s already happening.
Agents labor into a future that is still undecided. Working is choosing action. Agent Red disappears into the rabbit hole, bottoming-out into dream-work. Agent Yellow transcribes the grid-work into pamphlets of underground histories. Agent Orange works at writing them onto the imaginary plane. The script has yet to be finished. It’s never ending. Action.
One narrative theory is that one never dies in writing. But writing cannot in actuality provide safety. It is a machine desiring its own apocalypse. In actuality it is its own social bearing, desiring its own narrative theory. Here it is now, stretching out into the distance, held up by the many social beings that labor at holding it up.
Writing is action that is choosing the narrative theory to leave the collapsing grid. The thundering bass of the dance music shatters the imaginary plane. Shards fall from the sky. They reflect the so-called sunset like disco-balls. Choosing action that is material in its social bearings is building new dance floors for Agents. Social beings labor into a future that is still undecided. It’s already happening.
from SITE CITE CITY (Futurepoem, 2015). An earlier version was published at Narrativity.