From: Bill Wilson
Mon, Feb 18, 2013 at 4:31 PM
To: “Kienle, Miriam Elizabeth”
Cc: Sofia Kofodimos

Miriam: read this note as a vanilla ripple-swirl in which concepts swing and sway because not firmly attached to anything.  I am also relaying it to Sofia without violating any privacy: Bill

Miriam: merely one point in response — because Ray is indicted as non-political, and I must try to keep concepts filled with percepts. If with Habermas, who recedes as I misuse and misinterpret him, people are to communicate, that is, if even to converse, then each must wish for the others health, education and welfare which enable communication among equals, as thus in effect enjoying equalities which the state must work toward providing. (Dictatorships inhibit conversations.) (Inequalities deserve a long study & note.) Communication, as free communication, must be among equals, therefore necessitates a state, or at least social conditions, which provide equality in food, clothing, shelter, health and education. Conversation must check for equality — as in equal power of action with language — as with the right to speak. Setting aside Habermas, whom I haven’t read for years, I evoke a simple “liberal” politics — health, education and general welfare — but with equality beyond a minimal “safety net” — providing resources and resourcefulness for equalities in communication like two painters talking — not equality like the equal right to sleep under a bridge. I write toward this point: Ray’s network — mailing material/physical items to strangers who are instructed to respond by relaying those tangible items toward possibly other strangers — requires a government which provides for those conditions of equality which are necessary for communication and even conversation (Which of the persons unknown waiting for a bus does one ask for instructions? Stepping out of the rain under an awning, to whom does one feel free to speak, and safe?). Ray’s specific “materialism” has implications for the existence of governments with their different valuations of and understandings of “materialism” — Ray’s materialism is not Marxist materialism.  Ray’s practice is ragged with spontaneities, but he had principles with which to organize his improvisations and impulsive mailings, as when his please-send-to could become formalized as a developing and enlarging network of correspondents into which anyone is welcome on specifiable conditions of equality in holding liberal and liberating values. Optimistically, but also prescriptively, he defined or designated anyone as capable of participating in a relay if their values aligned (not all were attuned to Ray’s attunements). A relay — the ability to relay — prescribes qualities which accord with liberal, democratic values. In the theme of participations, and Ray’s goal of rendering an oberver into a participant-oberver, a person in order to relay had to be equal to the act — with the freedom of movement, and with the freedom, power and right to set a communication in motion, with the intention and hope of setting into motion the recipient of the object to be relayed within a field of relays (not static possessions). A mere mention: Ray constructed several collages remembering the bicentennial of the Declaration of Independence, whereupon every political theme is implied by his collages, which require acknowledgment of gay experiences and gay politics when he includes the name “John Hancock,” yet also Lynda Benglis and her dildo as a “hancock.”

For early American politics as a self-founding system, and for Ray’s network as a self-developing and self-organizing system, we need access to a postal system. The Colonials mailed newspapers to hold open democratic processes in an informed electorate. But then systems do have a tendency to close down over themselves and to close over anyone who enters that system (Sartrean viscosity). A male who desires and loves males may close a system over himself, as in the imagery of “closet.” Ray needed to act on principles and values which governed or controlled his freedom to set in motion: 1) his relations with the closing system which might close down over him, as with any “school of art”; and 2) his relations simultaneously with the system which he might close down over himself. He wrote me from out West in America: “I’m back in the closet again,/ Out where a friend is a friend” (1962). Every theme in the politics of friendship is wrought into that tautology, contrasting as it does with “Oh Friend, there is no friend.” To relay within an autonomous network with self-set standards to uphold meanings and values requires, underground or overground, a democracy in which a person can become free to enter a system which, insofar as a system, tends to close down, so that the person who enters thereby opens the system in order to reopen it and to hold open that otherwise shuttering system. Or if not enter, at least to stand out in front as a vanguard. A “movement” in art, once it has been defined as rules which anyone can follow, like painting with a paint-by-numbers kit, ceases to move. Ray eluded being classed in a “set” by setting sets in motion.

I repeat toward this point — that Ray’s network entails or requires — in order to participate in equality with him — a specifiable philosophy which differs from common popular American “philosophy” — yet people can participate in a network without it being Ray’s philosophic network. He constructed an open network for himself as a gay man who never allows himself to be enclosed as “gay” within a closed system. His materialism and his anti-illusionism — mere mentions here — represent and convey his moral values within his aesthetic values. He mails material/physical items to a friend, yet also to a possible stranger, with instructions to respond by relaying the tangible items toward another possible stranger. Thus his relay-network requires a government which provides for the very conditions of equality which are necessary for communication and even conversation. His network gets formalized as a developing and enlarging network into which anyone is welcome — but some people can’t afford stamps, or can’t improvise responses. So we need access to a postal system, but then systems do have a tendency to close down over themselves and over anyone who enters that system (Sartrean viscosity again). Therefore we need a democracy in which a person can be free to enter a system which, qua system, would tend to close down. Ray does what an avant-garde does in response to being smothered within a viscous system (by 1956, Abstract Expressionism has been closing down in a set of rules which any “art-major” can obey). Ray’s self-set task was to get out in front of the self-enclosing system in order to open, to reopen and to hold open that shuttering system, reviving immediacy, renewing spontaneity, redefining indeterminacy, and (inadvertently?) developing an American “immediacy” in its relations with Euro-immediacy (in the work of e.g. Jacques Derrida). Differences between the “indeterminate immediacies” of Hegel (recounted in Heidegger), and the chic immediacies of Derrida, will help to delineate Ray’s specific life-world with its specific relations with foundations, causalities, and especially “presence.” His own private “materialism,” in complications with aesthetic illusions, critiques of illusions, and anti-illusions, belongs with his sexuality, which for me should not be blurred within generalizations. His politics may not accord with “gay” politics — I need to read you and the writers you mention. So far, I am merely saying that Ray’s work implies a simple obvious democratic state which provides the possibility of becoming equal to participate in a communicative network. However many problems of sovereignty arise, as Warhol indicated by picturing an electric chair which the state could use to kill a citizen — the same state which could imprison and punish gay males for sexual acts. Now sub-themes occur, far beyond e-mail, because the tangible material papers mailed&delivered are part of a campaign against theatrical aesthetic illusions, dovetailing with the values and functions of The Living Theatre, therefore communicating with Bertolt Brecht, & therefore conversant with George Brecht, in a “field” which is not “singly catenarian,” but so much like a field of Dao that, in Ray’s art, East meets West — when Zen immanences meet New-York-neighborhood immanences. I need now to follow your references. I need a phenomenology of sexualities — the meanings within the specific acts (but not S. Ahmed) — & have just learned of an REJ painting of a penis in Australia, so am seeking an image. As I finish reading Peeters’s biography of Derrida, I have many questions newly formulated — today about “touch” & Jean-Luc Nancy. Ray communicated with Alan Bass, translator of The Postcard, so much of what rises does converge: Bill
these are mere mentions which I am mentioning to myself for possible committed development.  I need more about heterotopia…


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