Biographies of Bodies
Roberto Bolaño has bent over. The campground is desolate
and isolated. Cop cars have parked here. The sirens have been flashing
and wailing, but then they have turned off as they backed out of their
spots. Muddy tracks lead into the gravel road and disappear.
He shifts in his seat. There is an oddity in the way he moves.
It would make sense if his eyes didn't work, or if he'd broken a bone.
There is an inertia which carries. When a body is used to moving,
it continues to move after the brain wants to stop. He slouches towards—
Trees mask the landscape. Hills and kettles and valleys must be hidden
around here somewhere. "Pale men could see what was hidden."
Alley of pines. They are funneled densely, and tall like limbs.
A torso has stopped and slept in its seat, but inertia carries the limbs.
They crawl forward on their own, doing whatever they like, or at least
what they can't do when they are attached to the body.
The oddity remains. It cannot be placed. Something is not right.
He thinks that the boy was killed by a car. He was homeless at night.
"Something thick." It is only a problem because of the way he moves.
An awkward jaunting and futzing. "It's kaput." Something is new.
Bolaño's ligament or tendon. Something slipped in when
he wasn't looking. Now he can feel it. An absurd adjustment.
It was needless, and ultimately disorienting.
"What carries this along then?" There was a projector pointed
towards the side of the tent. Santiago Alvarez cut the celluloid apart,
stitched it back together, and ran it through the machine. Collaged photos
and archival footage ran across the screen as Lena Horne sang.
"Now. Now. Now." Everything was set to the tune of the Hava Nagila.
He watched the bodies, which moved like his. They were ragdolls dragged
across the frame, moving because they had already started, and not because
they wanted to. "Christ will you look at that." Figures moved in and out.
Limbs protruded from the screen, leaping out from the projector,
and the audience alike. There is a fear that once one body realizes it is
unrestricted, then the rest will too, and chaos will inevitably arise out
of the woodwork. As it always does. Although, this is just a fear of course.
There are fantasies of the man as he floats aimlessly through space.
Or as he rumbles in the metro from station to station.
Pelevin is still up there now, I think. Like the sun god himself.
He glides across from East to West. A lasso around the stomach.
I can't imagine the way that he might move. I have trouble here.
It's hard to say which arm or leg will go which way. You can't know.
Bolaño: A body can be used practically or poetically.
Alvarez: Mike Corrao is looking for a specific kind emotion that he can't place.
Bolaño: What is he looking for? Something practical or poetic?
Alvarez: It's a specific emotion, a kind of pleasure in these minute movements.
Bolaño: Does he get a feeling of nausea? Is there something absurd?
Alvarez: It's a pleasure. It's like jouissance, but asexual and observational.
Bolaño: I don't know what to call it then. Kinetic pleasure?
Alvarez: He doesn't know what to call it either. Maybe kinetic pleasure.
Bolaño: It's too theoretical.
Alvarez What kind of pleasure is derived from the movement of others?
A tape recorder was taken from off the coffee table, and the first
track was played, "In Weerasethakul's movies, I saw something
kind of euphoric. It was this overwhelmingly slow use of the human
form. Every minor action was accentuated by the lake of action.
It was rare that anyone moved; the frame only moved once or twice
on its own accord. Every time I saw an arm or a leg twitch, or
a sleeping soldier turn over in his bed, I'd feel this sense of complete
fascination. I wanted to understand the intention behind each limb.
At the end of one movie, there was a middle-aged woman sitting
on a bench, next to a young psychic. The first woman had a stump
leg, and the second woman thought she could heal it. She felt it
and kissed it and the first woman objected, but then accepted it
and began to quietly cry. There was something utterly beautiful in
the grotesque way that the young woman treated the leg. Her body
bowed down, and we saw all of the bloated and folded skin of the
stump leg. I was staring at something that had been made. It was
this organic mass, the product of malfunctions or errors. In it, I
found an overwhelming fascination which I am yet to understand.
I can't bear to meet Weerasethakul, even if I had the chance. There
is something too knowledgeable in that image. I cannot convince
myself to stand any closer to the source than I already have."
They played the second track on the tape recorder, "What I'm worried
about is the way that Weerasethakul's movies feel like dreams. I don't
like what that means for the body. It makes this slowness feel unreal.
I'm imagining a set of real bodies, which all move in the same odd and
peculiar way. I want there to be people who behave like this in reality.
It may be a lot to ask for, but the way that this slowness displays all of
the effort and mechanical work that goes into movement is incredible
to me. It's overwhelmingly human. There is an immense pleasure to be
found in the movement of foreign bodies, to watch them and see the
intricacies of this organic clockwork. There is something truly astounding
which occurs. I hope that Weerasethakul will not take this from me. I
know that it isn't the intention. I understand the allegorical nature of his
work. But I hope that some minor part of him, or of his aesthetic process,
carries this same fascination."
The problem may not be that he is moving with the wrong
set of parts. Maybe instead, there is a problem in how the parts are
manipulated. Pelevin floats through space, Bolaño rests in the woods.
There arise new fantasies, which provide no new answers.
A woman has chained herself to a pillar at the bottom of a pit.
She shoves sand away from the village. Again a slow body.
Alleys of pillars. The artificial dunes. Shovels resting along the wall.
The actions are depicted so clearly. The arms grab hold of the shovel.
They carry it to the dunes. They shovel away the sand. They collapse
to the floor. They rest. There is a rhythm to the miniscule movements.
The body acts within a set of tendencies. It becomes predictable and reliable.
Kobo Abe observes himself. He denotes the way that he moves, always
in expected ways. The entomologist and etymologist begin to discuss.
One denotes the origin of the other. An epistemologist arrives and denotes
the origin of the former. Abe observes a strange conversation between three
strangers, all of whom desire power over one another.
They stand with variant postures. Hunched, straightened, and then both.
A trio of bodies move in a symphonic manner, containing movements,
and motives. They are strangely musical, although often arrhythmic.
One sighs, "It's kaput." And it is.
Jouissance was not the right word. The pleasure is mechanical.
It could easily turn into abjection. It rests on a border between.
"Is coffee bad for your bones?" One asks, but there is not way to tell.
He only asks because he can feel his bones grinding against one another
under all of the tissue. He's worried that his ligaments have begun
to disappear, and turn to dust. When someone like Pelevin lets the vacuum
move him around this way and that way, they stop exercising on their own
accord. Their body becomes frail. They fall back down onto the planet,
and they have a lot of trouble moving. They can only act in minute ways.
Any grand movements will make the whole body fall apart, like a pile of bones.
"Is coffee bad for your bones?" ... "It's kaput" ... "Any dreams? Memories?"
His existence was pervaded by images.
He experienced a kind of pleasure, derived from moving figures.
Bolaño squatted down next to the campfire. Wood logs crawled
out from the brush, like golems towards creation.
Torsos and limbs formed, held together by tree sap.
Actions were performed. They mimicked the real man and his body.
It was not a matter of right or wrong parts. They moved regardless.
Whether slow, weightlessly, or violently.
It was not jouissance, but it was very similar. In some ways, it's
near impossible to distinguish them. Only a possibility of the abject
could define the difference between them. Where one was static
and inorganic, the other was ambiguous and elusive.
The pleasure that he found in bodies was only in the way that moved
so minutely. There was no desire to witness grandeur.
is a young writer working out of Minneapolis. He was a 2016 artist-in-residence for Altered Esthetics. His work has appeared in publications such as Entropy, decomP, Cleaver