That Paranormal “We”
Wisdom of Elders

Mighty Works

I thought I’d post a footnote of sorts to yesterday’s item on Professor Caroline Guertin, she of the limpid prose and limitless expertise. Here are a few short extracts from Guertin’s essay, Wanderlust: The Kinesthetic Browser in Cyberfeminist Space, published in 2007 by the Online Journal of Embodiment & Technology.

The shuffling and unfolding of the information of her body in sensory space is enacted across a gap or trajectory of subjecthood that is multiple and present. Subjectivity is the lens and connector through which the spatio-temporal dislocation gets focused and bridged. The gap is outside vision — felt not seen — and always existing on the threshold in between nodes. Like the monster’s subjectivities, all knots in the matrix are linked.

Think about that for a moment. Ponder its majesty.

Nudged into motion, the meandering subject in cyberfeminist space is a comet in orbit around her own story, around her subjective experience of a text that keeps changing, spinning off into an uncharted future. According to Paul Virilio, we are no longer beings who inhabit a temporal plane. Instead, in Open Sky, he argues we have become passive agents who are acted upon like film — exposed, underexposed, overexposed — and are nakedly subject to the effects of light speed.


We inhabit our bodies differently when we are out of phase, oscillating in the turbulence of dynamic space, that space where the textual body is written as contextual knot. The ways of moving in virtual space are directed and mapped by the knots that span spatio-temporal rifts. Without movement, we cannot cross the space-time divide.

Or maybe,

The textual voyage is alive and kinetic, fractal and in flux, birthed as she travels through its fullness.

I suppose one could view the extracts above, and the essay from which they’re taken, as a sort of extended Zen kōan, insofar as they defy rational understanding and all known aesthetic criteria. More sceptical souls may wonder if these passages are in fact the results of some kind of seizure or medical condition, of which we must not speak.

I should, in fairness, point out that the Online Journal of Embodiment & Technology does feature more substantial aesthetic and intellectual works, including Courtney Stricklin’s Yawn, a written variation of a video piece that invites readers to record the number of times they yawn while reading it. (Stricklin has, helpfully, punctuated the text with marks indicating how many times she yawned while writing it.) Stricklin’s biography informs us,

While Courtney would never have guessed that her future would be in the arts, it came as no surprise to her highly artistic family.

No less impressive is Thrash: Physical Responses to the Bush Administration, by Andrew Simonet and Headlong Dance Theatre, a company which creates 

award winning experimental and experiential dances with/for the entire body, including the face, the voice, and the mind.

Readers will be thrilled to discover that Thrash is an ongoing project in which members of the public are welcome to participate: 

No performance experience necessary. Here’s the idea: you listen to speeches by George W. Bush. Then you move in front of a video camera for four minutes. No movement too strange, too ugly, or too crazy. Whatever comes out is part of Thrash. I edit the results into [a] short compilation, a cathartic DIY video, a belligerent home movie of an infuriating time… Don’t worry about being (1) good, (2) original, (3) interesting.

A video of the results is available here. Go on, watch it. It’s a thing of beauty.


Over at University Diaries, The Myth attempts a rather heroic translation of Guertin’s prose.

Feel free to compensate me.


mr shifter

Thrash = therapy+nation+catharsis squared.

Any similarities?....
(could only find this weird slo-mo version)


That final disclaimer in the invitation to the Thrash project had to have been deliberate irony. There is no chance that anything good, original, or interesting will come out of it.

Horace Dunn


That’s not a disclaimer. It’s their manifesto.


The title of the main page of the Online Journal of Embodiment and Technology is "Untitled Document." Guerin's essay has a link to her website that 404s because they copied an encoded space character (%20) into the URL. Her main page is titled "index.jpg." Poking around the code on her site reveals someone who doesn't have the foggiest notion of how HTML works.

You know what would really be radical for these people? Getting a clue about their medium.


By the way, there is a version of Thrash with sound, though I’m not convinced it adds much to the aesthetic experience.

I was going to make some comment about people jerking violently to Bush, but I thought better of it. This is, I maintain, a classy joint.

Mark T

Anyone else find the video of Thrash eerily reminiscent of a Chris Morris sketch? Perhaps thats why I find it all the more remarkable that the performers are not actually taking the piss.

btw my personal favourite is the elderly woman with the walking frame. Her slow beating of the ground with a fist as it rolls away. Genius.


"This is, I maintain, a classy joint."

For sure. Isn't it time for canapés and music?



Help yourself to Battenberg.

Man Born Man

LOL. Er, so what is a 'gap or trajectory of subjecthood'?


Alas, that’s only one question among many. As Norm pointed out, you not only have to wonder what, exactly, a “gap or trajectory of subjecthood” is - and why it’s both “multiple” and “present” – you also have to wonder why this should be preferable to, or different from, one that’s multiple while absent, or indeed singular while absent. Or singular while present.

It’s a real humdinger.

The Thin Man

"so what is a 'gap or trajectory of subjecthood'?"

It's a funangular torpezoid function of the quanta of leguminarianist skunkadiddle, obtained at the periheliolobe /parpnacular boundary.

Fourth order transmogriphons are subtended and refracted by this subjectivist trajectory/gap/vagina and allows meaning to percolate beyond the mere now.

As any fule no.


“subjectivist trajectory/gap/vagina.”

Ah, you’ve an aptitude for this kind of thing. The Farce is strong, etc.

I’m also unsure how a person can “inhabit [their] body out of phase” and “oscillate in the turbulence of dynamic space,” let alone one in which “the textual body is written as a contextual knot.” But perhaps that’s just me.

Ophelia Benson

Notice how much better-written Thin Man's version is. I'm sure Thin Man intended to write just as badly, but because of also intending to amuse, couldn't manage it. That tells us something.

(What? That Guertin intends absolutely *nothing* other than to signal the initiated. Paltry intentions produce paltry writing.)



“Paltry intentions produce paltry writing.”

And writing so awfully, so dishonestly, can’t be good for a person’s thinking or probity, or grip on reality. It’s not clear what Guertin’s peers, employers and admirers think her “work” actually is, and what’s it’s supposed to achieve. Maybe some of them assume it’s a kind of Dadaist jive. Or maybe they’ve just learned to pretend that it’s meaningful.

More to the point, it can’t be good for students who find themselves having to listen to florid blathering about “inhabiting their bodies out of phase,” etc. I wonder how many students will have the confidence to call her bluff and say, “Excuse me, professor, you’re mouthing utter bollocks. I’d like a refund please and I think you should resign.”


> “Excuse me, professor, you’re mouthing utter bollocks. I’d like a refund please and I think you should resign.”

That's the reason I support Students paying for their own education. They are far more likely to cry Bullshit and unleash the dogs of non-payment.


It occurs to me that my previous comment was perhaps a little naïve - specifically the hope that students, some of them, might demand a refund and their professor’s resignation. In a way, maybe they’re being given what they want, and what they’ve paid for. Presumably there are quite a few students whose credulity or politics leads them to find nothing suspicious about courses in “critical theory” advertised with statements like this:

“The scarcity of women film directors and the prevalence of female new media writers and artists seems to lend credence to N. Katherine Hayles’ theory that cyberspace functions as a material metaphor for time travel as we hop from screen to screen. The new media just might therefore have created a new space for new kinds of feminist engagements with the temporal dimension. Theories around the concept of mastery and the gendering of temporal manipulation will be explored.”

And those who do find such claims congenial, along with other strained and disfigured metaphors, are unlikely to be particularly “critical” of what’s on offer. It seems to me that instead of fostering critical enquiry, theoretical or otherwise, material of this kind actually encourages conformity and witless regurgitation. Perhaps what’s being paid for isn’t knowledge or thinking skill, or anything much like it, but a posture, an attitude – and that’s what’s being delivered.


This last snippet of prose was almost intelligible. Every sentence started off right, but then she interjects the time craziness.

"The scarcity of women film directors and the prevalence of female new media writers and artists seems to lend credence to N. Katherine Hayles’ theory..."

So far so good. New media opportunities = more women participating, right?

"...that cyberspace functions as a material metaphor for time travel as we hop from screen to screen."

WTF!? It's like she has some sort of congenital defect where the ability to draw rational conclusions is impaired. Only outlandish and inscrutable ones will do.


"Only outlandish and inscrutable ones will do."

The more fake the subject is, the more it has to be tarted up.


Aye, ‘tis indeed a powdered strumpet, and worth no more than a farthing.

Horace Dunn

I wasn't going to watch the video, but I've been out with friends and we drank Sambucco, so when I got home I though "why not?"

After watching it , it seemed to me that the "performers" were all auditioning for a bit part in a George A Romero film.

Let's hope they remember their lines. "Ber-wains Ber-wains!!"

At the end there's the announcement that "Thrash is an ongoing project".

Well, as long as it keeps these losers off the tube trains when I'm going to work I can see that it offers some kind of social benefit.



“Ber-wains! Ber-wains!!”


Ah, but seriously, you aren’t sharing their pain and profound moral trauma. The electorate didn’t vote in the way these twitching, tearful people think they should have. How could it happen? It’s an outrage, etc.

By the way, over at University Diaries, The Myth has attempted a rather heroic translation of Guertin’s prose. I think we should buy the chap a drink.


"Perhaps what's being paid for isn't knowledge or thinking skill, or anything much like it, but a posture, an attitude – and that's what’s being delivered."
But education isn't meant to be just an attitude. Guertin is cheating students.


“Guertin is cheating students.”

Yes, I think so, and her employers too. But it seems to me they’re to some extent complicit in the deception. There’s little point singling out Guertin as if she were some rogue professor or random aberration. (She’s conforming to a set pattern, and doing so quite carefully. There is a system to it, if not much logic.) Her peers, admirers and employers are very much part of the problem. It’s a dysfunction of the environment she inhabits.

My point is that the bollocks is pretty much advertised upfront. If you don’t raise an eyebrow at the introductory spiel, there’s a good chance the course itself will be fairly congenial, albeit virtually worthless. (Suckers drawn in, suckers churned out.) Whether material of this kind is deserving of any institutional status or public subsidy - or any claim to seriousness - is, I think, another matter. Maybe courses like those above, and much of “Theory” generally, could be separated from more reputable education, so as to avoid confusion and embarrassment. A sort of pseudo-education that nobody takes very seriously and which must stand alone and pay for itself, if it can, rather than leeching off the status of the broader university institution.

Horace Dunn


"...there’s a good chance the course itself will be fairly congenial, albeit virtually worthless"

The proof of the pudding etc. It would be interesting to compare the careers of people educated by Guertin and the like with people educated by sensible, intelligent teachers. I can't imagine that Guertin is preparing her students for a successul, fulfilled and useful life, but I might be wrong. Anyhow, I wonder if there's a measure of these things and whether anyone has made any statistical comparisons.


“I can’t imagine that Guertin is preparing her students for a successful, fulfilled and useful life.”

Setting aside psychiatric hospitals, I’m guessing many end up in teaching, or writing for Mute or, even worse, Social Text.

If you look through Social Text, Mute, the Journal of Žižek Studies or any number of similar publications, you’ll see just how pervasive forms of “Theory-speak” are, and how the jargon and general approach very often masks poor thinking and tendentious assertion, or just long periods of befuddlement. As I said, it’s not a case of one or two rogue professors; it’s a dysfunction of the idiom, and of the academic environment such people inhabit.

KB Player

This kind of thing makes me think fondly of the academics at the university I attended - they got us to read a lot of what would be called "the canon" today and to comment on it with sense, reason and in intelligible prose. Are these archaic skills - as if they had been teaching us copperplate handwriting or manuscript illumination?



“Are these archaic skills - as if they had been teaching us copperplate handwriting or manuscript illumination?”

This may be relevant. Keith Windshuttle pointed out that the use of wilfully opaque prose is not an accident; for many, it’s a political posture:

“Though all the great historians I just mentioned were wonderfully clear writers, postmodern academic fashions have declared clear writing to be ideologically contaminated. The editors of one recent collection of postmodernist essays inform us: ‘The ideal of a transparent, tempered and accommodated prose’ is ‘the approved mode of expression for the society and values of the newly empowered middle class.’ (Innovations of Antiquity, ed. Ralph Hexter and Daniel Selden, New York 1992). Another has declared ‘unproblematic prose and clarity of presentation’ to be ‘the conceptual tools of conservatism.’ (Mas’d Zavarzadeh, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, cited by John M. Ellis, Against Deconstructionism.)”

There are, alas, quite a few so-called “theoreticians” who claim that a preference for arguments that are (a) comprehensible and (b) able to withstand scrutiny marks one as conservative or reactionary, i.e. The Enemy. I hardly need to point out the perversity of that claim. Technocratic obscurantism of this kind is, of course, a pretty good way of hiding the fact one is simply asserting things – often very dubious things - as if they were somehow axiomatic, rather than demonstrating a point or advancing a logical argument. Again, if you browse the aforementioned journals, you’ll see the sort of thing I mean. Though you may want to get quite drunk first.


Thanks, David, that gave me a long extended fit of laughing, and now that it's done, I feel quite relaxed.

BTW, I love UD's observation, "David Thompson, an impressive blogger, operates in much the same way, only he’s off every day to the art dump."



Yes, I may have to use that one. The “art dump” bit, I mean. Or the boneyard of rotting pretensions, as I believe I once described it.

“I feel quite relaxed.”

Good-oh. This should be a place to unwind and mingle. Help yourself to a drink. I’ll wheel out the phonomogram.


I suggest some research on the similarities in the use of language between schizophrenics and some other conditions, and the sort of writing of which this is an example. There seem to be interesting similarities.

On the subject of "cyberspace functions as a material metaphor for time travel" - isn't the point of cyberspace that it isn't material?

wayne fontes

I'm pleased to see the UD and David Thompson are aware of each other. On the subject of bad POMO prose, Margret Soltan is one of my favorite bloggers.


" Alas, that’s only one question among many. "

And the only two important questions are: what are they on and where can I get some?

The comments to this entry are closed.