Archive for February 10th, 2009


Angel of History, II: Black Mountain



20 years before Jean-Luc Godard saluted Paris, “See you at Mao!”, Charles Olson separated himself from his mentor Ezra Pound–and the totalitarian impulse of his withdrawl from Capital–preferring an idealistic experiment in communism, like Black Mountain, and wrote, collaging agit-prop slogans, 

“Mao concluded: 

                                nous devons  

                                                        nous lever  

                                                                           et agir!” 



Paul Goodman in Gestalt Therapy, an unknown tuberous root in the rhizomes of Deleuze and Guattari, antedating them by 30 years, espoused his theory of selfhood, as a surface of awareness (Body without Organs), moving through Freud and Marx in conceiving a subject an-egoic, anti-oedipal, and trying to disperse its concentration in an identity, like private property.  

“The self is the system of contacts in the organism/environment field; and these contacts are the structured experience of the actual present situation . . . the existing field passing into the next moment is rich with potential novelty, and contact is the actualization.  Invention is original; it is the organism growing, assimilating new matter and drawing on new sources of energy.  The self does not know beforehand what it will event, for knowledge is the form of what has already occurred . . . The complex system of contacts necessary for adjustment in the difficult field, we call ‘self.'” 


Student at Black Mountain College, Martha Rittenhouse, describing Bob Rauschenberg in a way that reminds me of Coleridge’s remark on Wordsworth, that you “can teach a poet anything, except rhythm”, reminisces about the dance parties students used to throw at Black Mountain, 

“Bob was one of the students at Black Mountain who had rhythm in their souls and toes. The other ones were Delores Fullman, Donald Alter, Ulrich Heinnemann-Rufer and Erissinola Genesi, called Mitzi. I envied them with all my heart. It was such a pleasure at parties to watch them dance. MiTzi and Uli did teach me the Charleston, and we performed it in one of the drama productions that Uli wrote. As we danced, we sang a song Uli had written for us that went something like this: “We are the witches. We are hunting game. We don’t know any feeling of shame. Do as we do, everyone. The purpose of life if FUN! FUN! FUN!” “

Imagine Rauschenberg hauling coal and understand his sensitivity to appreciate the “waste and softness” of cardboard boxes.  Like another former student Molly Gregory wrote, labor at the college, was “a leveller, rather like Chairman Mao’s cultural revolution.”   


February 2009
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