Canadian Art - - Fiction - By Lisa Robert­son

A school alit on a mo­ment. It felt elec­tric, erotic, un­com­fort­able, nec­es­sary. Be­cause they no­ticed, the mo­ment ex­panded, scaf­folded by a low-rent ma­te­ri­al­ity. They en­tered this tem­po­ral sus­pen­sion by climb­ing nar­row and steep stair­ways to the up­per floors of ne­glected Ed­war­dian store­fronts in a de­crepit down­town neigh­bour­hood. They trun­dled book boxes, or helped the older ones. But beyond the ar­chi­tec­tural scaf­fold and the dusty scent of the hall­ways the school it­self was im­ma­te­rial, and in­fin­itely mo­bile, like many of its prece­dents: sin­gle Black Moun­tain lec­tures sprawl­ing mag­nif­i­cently across days; beer­fu­elled liv­ing-room read­ings at­tended by log­gers, ar­chi­tects, camp cooks, lefty lawyers and stu­dents; the com­mu­nal meet­ing halls of 1871 Paris in the month of March, where rad­i­cal shoe­mak­ers, seam­stresses and preschool teach­ers lec­tured on ci­ti­zen­ship; the ex­per­i­men­tal chem­istry clubs of 17th-cen­tury rev­o­lu­tion­ary Lon­don; the ro­man­tic me­te­o­rol­o­gists of Cam­bridgeshire; Fourier’s pas­sion­ate as­so­ci­a­tions and pha­lanster­ies; the peri­patetic con­ver­sants of the Epi­curean gar­den, where women and men shared the lively and liv­ing pursuit of phi­los­o­phy, in con­tra­dic­tion to the dis­courses of the state.

In a sense, time was their medium. They wanted glamorous sem­i­nars to fling open and de­mol­ish all ex­pec­ta­tions re­gard­ing the tem­po­ral reg­u­la­tion. They wanted the spon­ta­neous erup­tion of in­tense in­tel­lec­tual new­ness. Time spon­ta­neously trans­lated to new time. Some of them wanted to ex­pe­ri­ence his­toric­ity as rad­i­cally si­mul­ta­ne­ous: the me­dieval wan­der­ing po­ets would be among their most ur­gent con­tem­po­raries, or the epis­to­lary writ­ers of the long 18th cen­tury, or the gentle­men nat­u­ral­ists of ear­ly­ro­man­tic Eng­land me­an­der­ing up Adanac Street, or the baroque philoso­phers trac­ing their el­lipses in the forests of UBC. To help the col­lapse of time as met­rics, and en­cour­age its trans­for­ma­tion into a lux­u­ri­ously dis­trib­uted lu­bri­cant, an en­tic­ingly shim­mer­ing and mov­ing fab­ric, a shared yet con­tested decor, the col­lec­tive wel­comed end-nar­ra­tives: the end of fem­i­nin­ity, the end of na­ture, the end of work. They be­lieved that each end­ing was nec­es­sar­ily the site of a trans­for­ma­tion. They were good at sur­viv­ing.

They said that the task of each minute was to dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween the mind’s thought and the state’s thought. They said the state’s thought is an in­ert placebo for an ac­tual re­la­tion­ship with form. Cap­i­tal gives every­thing its emp­tied double—form can’t live there so re­la­tion­ships won’t change. Thus there are two thoughts. One took place in low-bud­get shadow. This

They be­lieved that each end­ing was nec­es­sar­ily the site of a trans­for­ma­tion. They were good at sur­viv­ing.

is a the­ory I wish to open. In the cur­rent era of cap­i­tal, it could be that the mind’s thought must live in hid­ing, in in­con­spic­u­ous par­al­lel to the of­fi­cial in­sti­tu­tion­al­iza­tions. Their shabby, dif­fi­cultly ac­ces­si­ble rooms were spir­i­tual havens, as in the Epi­curean man­date: live in hid­ing. Be­cause they could rec­og­nize, orig­i­nate and ex­change the mind’s thought, time in the col­lec­tive’s spa­ces and texts was the highly di­ver­si­fied en­ergy of com­bined in­no­va­tion and con­tem­pla­tion. Time was not the met­rics of the re­pro­duc­tion of cap­i­tal. They weren’t strivers. They scorned ten­ure. They had ar­rived at this ob­scure place by ex­er­cis­ing their shared piety for hor­i­zon­tal dis­cur­sive ex­tremes in oth­ers. Lov­ingly they ad­dressed the fu­ture. ■

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