Friday, July 21, 2017

Academic Work: The View from Stadium Village

Speaking at Cornell in 1982, Jacques Derrida begins and ends
“The Principle of Reason: The University in the Eyes of Its Pupils,”
later published in Diacritics, with this question:
“Today, how can we not speak of the university?”

Derrida is responding to, and citing an essay published two years before,
also in Diacritics, by James Siegel, titled “Academic Work: The View from Cornell”
which, among many other things, articulates the coming into being of Cornell
as the removal of the university from the “reminders of death”:

“Today,” Siegel writes in 1981, “the opposition between the university and life on the one side and death on the other still stands, as we shall see.”

an opposition, like a bridge that continues to stand even when a view from it is ruined
from the bridge, confronted with the logic of the sublime, thoughts of death, Siegel thought
and also found that there is an interest “in putting suicide, suggested by the view, in relation to work.”

“The connection between work and suicide in this assumption is not that work causes death but that not being able to work does so. Not standing up to pressure, one is overwhelmed. But so long as one does work, one stands up to it, one lives.”

we see this standing opposition today but we also see more than this
we see the work the university has done in time,
in the time since Siegel wrote this essay, to lay claim to death, to produce death, political economy,
out of the difference between faculties—we see it in this university in particular
on the one side, those who fulfill the tripartite mission of the university (teaching, research, outreach) and on the other, those who make but a “vital” contribution.

it’s not the matter of this difference in ways of dying, but the fact of it.

the dream, mocked to death by the university, is still a dream
In the Reorder of Things: The University and the Pedagogies of Minority Difference, Roderick Ferguson:
“the academy is not simply an entity that socializes people into the ideologies of political economy” but “an institution that socializes state and capital into emergent articulations of difference.”

which is no longer exactly like
what in 1865 began as the work of setting “death” on the other side

death is already a figure that comes to fill in for non-existence
a figure that affirms difference in order to erase it

In 2012, Stefano Harney and Fred Moten ask in “The University and the Undercommons”: “What is the price of refusing to be either for the Universitas or for professionalization, to be critical of both, and who pays that price?”

Harney and Moten imply: labor pays the price, labor developed
in a particular way, universally, labor that occupies a stage of “self-incurred minority”
a Kantian term, pays the price, but there is more:
work as an experience of difference, of non-existence, is the price paid.

President Kaler, a couple of weeks ago: 
“I think it makes the environment a little bit more sterile in the sense that it’s more homogeneous and less individualistic. I had my last meal at the Village Wok a few weeks ago, and I had my first meal there in 1978. Those places have been an important part of our community for a long time. I hope that as the new spaces are developed … that some of those businesses can come back into that newer space and provide the same kind of food and opportunities…”

in the late blue   in the burnt out
looking for longer lines

Longing, a public art installation set in place by artists Jennifer Newsom and Tom Carruthers, a.k.a. Dream the Combine, last year. a suspended walkway, in view of the grain silos, at the north end of stadium village.

From the Artists’ Statement: “Using two inward-facing, 10′ x 15′, moveable mirrors suspended at either end of the skyway from a tensegrity supported gimbal, Longing creates a visually infinite environment that bridges toward distant horizons.”

before the sun reaches the pines
the pines are full of blue-tailed 
woodpeckers.    say there's nothing
else there and say you knew it all
along. where would you go
with everything else?

there are other ways to find stillness
and still, and yet--
a strangeness you might never wake from
persistent thoughts
and annihilation
say there's no other way
to take care of, to be taken care of
except to circle in on that

there’s bad infinity, and good—
Longing presents what is good, about infinity
how endlessness cannot be seen without illusion

how the draw cannot be explained.
from the other side     only unreal.

the dry needles hang, having fallen
in other trees as well,
and have the feeling of being after.
there's no way to turn the bad
into good. it takes something else.

the universal in ruins

by night what becomes evident is this:
you cannot go back tomorrow

there’s a small square in your head
not literally a gland but something quilted
purple steel and always shifting

a glimpse of your own non-existence
a staring into your own non-existence, indulgent,
glittery with absence, then not even that

moving up in the university
like swiftly walking down ever smoother hallways
only one thing does not recede

only one thing becomes perceptible here

that there is no talk of non-existence here, of Longing
everyone acts like it just doesn’t happen
like non-existence just doesn’t doesn’t just happen

in the high rises constructing themselves up
around campus there will be rooms in the highest floors
and floors within those rooms
where no one will ask why are we here?

Kaler from the president’s office, on the top floor of Morrill Hall: “But, at the end of the day … they become an attractive nuisance. We have urban explorers that think climbing the fences and going into those buildings is a good past time. I don’t want to own a grain elevator that somebody died in. I think the best thing to be done for several reasons is to take them down.”

A good past time.
So it’s really this: if you don’t want to own a grain elevator
that somebody has died in, take it down.
take down a grain elevator that somebody has died in so that you don’t have to own it. take it down and build a 27-story studio-to-luxury apartment complex that no one will ever think to fall from. that no one will ever want to die in. that non-existence will never be thought in.

espresso exposé, village wok, bun mi sandwiches: goodbye.
in the shadow of the grave silo
you are something that stands by
an attractive nuisance bought and sold in the heights of another high.

Somebody has died here too.

I don’t want to own a university that somebody has had the thought of death in.
let death, let non-existence never be a thought.

slow dying is the university in ruins
but non-existence, the ontological state of the university precedes this dying

Derrida in “The Principle of Reason: The University in the Eyes of Its Pupils”: “From now on, so long as it has the means, a military budget can invest in anything at all, in view of deferred profits: “basic” scientific theory, the humanities, literary theory and philosophy.”

but maybe not non-existence.
if non-existence is a kind of infinite regress, a totality not so much full
as empty of everything, the total environment of real abstraction,
it’s this that both the investment and its logic cheapens.

dividing & deferring, the logic of profits:

Kaler, on the use of University money to pay half a million dollars in legal fees to demonstrate the difference between professors and professionals: “The legal fees are not coming from tuition and state money. The legal fees were paid from an account that contains those monies. It’s a little bit like a checkbook. You write a check and then you reconcile where the funds should come from. Tuition or state money will not be used for those legal fees. They are paid from other sources of revenue for the institution…. You reconcile each item in the account as you review to close the books and then you assign money from an appropriate source to pay the appropriate bill.”
who pays the price? those who experience non-existence in the eyes of the university.

Students who called for the University of Minnesota to: 1) Treat College Education as a Public Good 2) Grant Immediate Free Tuition for American Indian Students 3) Demand President Kaler's Immediate Resignation 4) Divest from Black Rock Investment Portfolio.

When Roderick Ferguson writes, “Contrary to the idea that the lower faculties internalize the elements of a preexistent and fully formed state, the lower faculties internalize the interests of government only after they have articulated those interests for the state and its constituents,” he gets to the reason why the half million dollars spent by the university to enforce the division of faculties is not about labor, or the power of labor (although, parenthetically, it’s also about this) but about work.

the point of the division is to diminish regulative experience—experiences of difference, of work, of non-existence—that articulate interests “for the state and its constituents,” experience that is the experience of what Moten and Harney call the “self-incurred minority” and that they list as follows:

"Maroon communities of composition teachers, mentorless graduate students, adjunct Marxist historians, out or queer management professors, state college ethnic studies departments, closed-down film programs, visa-expired Yemeni student newspaper editors, historically black college sociologists, and feminist engineers."

the point of the university—whose transparency, the transparency on view in yet another skyway on campus, has become/has always been unbearable— the point of the division is to diminish regulative experiences of work that refuse an experience of identity over difference and to reduce such experiences to an identity that is manageable.

deciding what gets to be a piece and what gets to be a side
versus either being a piece and how
or being a side and how is the undertaking of academic work inside Longing

still, then what? an array
of what is inaudible and nothing else

no one wants to call that being
being in the middle of it all
and the end of every branch--
that's where things get hairy,
tiny leaves uniformly displayed before
become furled, multiply inexplicably
take on shapes not otherwise seen,
further back. it oozes, trickles, seeps,
before it flows. but even in 
receding, the lines have already 
been lost, the pines' daybreak 
gives glimpse. but who would
take those moments     you'd have to be
crazy to take those moments
because you'd have to take them
as if they were all that's there.
as if they were all there.

before internalizing interest, before being invested in, the experience of this regulative act
is an impossibility, according to the Kantian system, as it is, according to the university.

It is something that does not exist.

But does this mean it is non-existent? Siegel talks of the “interest in the view,” which signals an investment in the view “precisely for being the place of death, the place where death can be safely located, because that place is not ‘here’ in the university.” But what is put here, what is it that comes “before” this articulation of interest in the view of death? Siegel, in an ambiguous phrase several lines later: “notions of absence arising within work.”

To which, we could just ask, why? we can see why it is this from which profits are derived, and see how escape in the form of a sublime view, a glance out a window, across a bridge, is already a way that the university “socializes state and capital into emergent articulations of difference.” It oozes, trickles, seeps, before it flows, Césaire said of the “barbarism” of colonialism becoming Nazism—once the engulfment happens, it’s as if it becomes impossible to see the countless ways in which “emergent articulations of difference” were deployed—and not just the “countless ways,” but even worse: that they were deployed at all. Not raising the question of non-existence converges here with covering tracks. Academic work that takes up the regress, the illusive infinity, the non-existence of the page upon which work is done, the work of writing, of thinking, may or may not think about itself as destructive, but that it’s self-destructive, it seems, we can be pretty sure—in its gesture of not turning away from the “notions of absence” that arise within it.

When were you growing up? Couldn’t that always
be the question no one ever gets asked? And then someone does
and it’s as if it had always been there for the asking.

Just as
someone somewhere
swallows things whole,
suffocates, comes up for air,
keeps seeing what
is there to see, even seeing too much,
where there's too much to see.