M is for the Mysteries of the Universe (and for Metaprimer)

| March 11, 2014

As I take this selfie walking to the train station on a bright 60-degree afternoon a day after it flurried, as I type this primer entry on my iPhone and try to figure out how the hell to publish it from my iPhone, I’m pondering the paradox of the apprehension of aesthetic experience killing aesthetic experience. We talked about this last class — does the very act of studying aesthetic experience in the classroom kill its quality of being an aesthetic experience?

Deconstructionist theory might say that aesthetic experience is already dead: by academizing (museumifying) it, we’ve murdered it and resurrected it as a simulation, and there’s no real thing that “aesthetic experience” references, no signified behind the signifier (the schizophrenia of postmodernism). Deconstruction might say that aesthetic experience is just our enactment of the model we’ve created for “aesthetic experience;” the model conjures this simulated aesthetic experience into reality (the precession of simulacra). Deconstruction might say that we’ve created this simulacrum of aesthetic experience to legitimize its opposite — critical analysis? — thereby naturalizing a binary that is decidedly unnatural (ahem Derrida ahem).

So I guess what I’m saying is, I’m thinking about skipping class because it’s really goddamn nice outside.

After all, who are you, class on aesthetic experience, to kill my experience of aesthetic experience? Riddle me that…

I’m not actually going to skip class. But I am going to walk from Grand Central to Times Square instead of taking the shuttle. Now that’s compromise.

See you at 5.

UPDATE: I have also decided to walk from 96th to Columbia.

MUCH MORE RECENT UPDATE: I’m such an urban drifter. I clearly belong in Moffett’s other class. I even wrote this in my other post, “X is for Xenophobia”:

I once wrote a snarky poem comparing New York City tourists to tree branches scraping your face in a slasher movie. They both only exist to get in your way.

It wasn’t one of my better poems (the baseball bat poem I posted earlier, on the other hand, was) (I did think the extended metaphor/couplet structure I used looked pretty cool, though) (back-to-back-to-back parentheses). But I’m going to grace you with it anyway:

City Tourists

Are the branches that spring from nowhere
To scratch your face, the tripping roots

That live to get in your way
While you run gasping through the starless forest

From a masked man with a white face and a cold knife
Whose gleam doesn’t pierce the velvet night.

He lumbers toward you, never changing speeds
But always closing, always closing, rhythmic, rhythmic,

And the audience sees it all unfold,
Life and death on a movie screen.

Sometimes they shout at you. But,
Ears pounding, eyes raked by the spindles,

You can only stumble on, blundering
Into limb and root, tourists and tourists

Who stand like trees. Necks craned, they only see
The tops of buildings. Cameras ready, they search,

Search, search for the perfect shot: the postcard picture
Of the Empire State Building stabbing the innocent clouds,

Or the one dirt square left intact
On the Grand Central ceiling from when they cleaned it up

So people could watch the constellations glow
Without needing to see through the City lights.

They sway into your path and you can’t avoid them all,
These tourists who speak not through the voice

Of the wind that blows the killer’s face in a silent wood,
But in languages just as incomprehensible to men of the City.

Or ask the crowd in broken English, “Where is the Penn Station?”
When there’s no “the” in the goddamn name,

As you and the other New Yorkers
Jostle them back and walk on, walk tall.

Pictured: idiots.

I bring you this poem in extension of our short conversation in class about the aesthetics of moving around the subway and the City; and to make the point that someone can write a poem about the frustration of interference with the movement aesthetics of the city crowd despite not living in the city.

I live in the suburbs; and so it is into the suburbs that the aesthetics of the city and crowd has seeped by osmosis, such that I absorb it. Or: the anti-aesthetics of the city and the crowd, if you buy into Walter Benjamin’s theory, which I referenced in an earlier post.

So let me subscribe to Benjamin, that the crowd and the city destroy (aesthetic) experience, and to this theory of radiation, in which the nature of the City and the “New Yorker” infiltrates the suburbs. These are the stakes: the “New Yorker” entails the anti-aesthetics of the crowd and its movement; it becomes inscribed in the identity of a New Yorker, whether or not he lives in the City.