PRAISE SONG FOR WHAT’S MISSING
Somewhere in the apocalypse of downtown Los Angeles, I took a wrong turn and—akimbo to the street, bracketed by tilting telephone poles and a fractured contrail from LAX—I ended up at the locked and lurid door to WE COME CA I ORNIA NIGTH CLUB CO KTAILS.
Once upon a time, this bar was known as the Welcome Cocktails California Nightclub. And then with its characteristically rapacious urge to confuse, the city overpowered the nightclub’s best attempt at coherent communication.
That former door opened into the licentious predictability of poorly mixed drinks and robotic lap dances.
Now, lacking letters, this is my door to my town, and it offers the delights of my mind: dyslexic jouissance. Disorganized arrivals. Collective confusions. The indulgences of accidental poetics.
I got lost at WE COME NIHGT CLUB on the day I returned home to LA from four months working on projects at Nazi concentration camps in Germany and the Czech Republic. After months creating often tragically incorrect meanings for indecipherable Czech signage, this hometown encounter with disrupted English was a startling rendezvous with my native tongue, signed by someone whose English is like my Czech.
Clearly, much had changed in my absence. My Ls and Fs and Cs dismembered or gone missing. In a summer following the trail of omission, destruction and absence of an entire people, the poetry of my city seemed to echo this obsession with what’s not there.
Deep in the heart of art: white space. The empty places.
I am reading a writer of substantial genius: Hélène Cixous’ Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing. She writes that her most beloved artists “go through the back door of thought” and “must at least once in your life have realized you were undergoing the opposite of what was coming.” (She addresses us directly, you, as though hoping we will become her beloved.)
Like the hallucinatory portal to WE COME CA I ORNIA, like the artist brain, like the cities in which we live, her love is only partially coherent.
She introduced me to her colleague Clarice Lispector, who dedicates her book The Passion According to G.H. to “those who know that the approach to anything is done progressively and painfully—and that includes as well passing through the opposite of what is being approached.”
Sometimes we create through doors like this, that connect the Ukraine to Brazil, Oran to Paris, Berlin to Culver City. Languages disoriented by translation. Our Ls and Cs and Fs impounded as we pass through the opposite of what is being approached.
In the maze of concrete and advertisements, a city’s signage can be read as runes. To those of us who pander with words and pictures, the city makes a riddle. Artists exist as oracles at an everyday Delphi. Our work is filling in the absences, the omissions. Our work is with the empty spaces. With the white page, the blank wall, the empty canvas.
We are always arriving in language without the proper permits.
We come to the back door—the very opposite of what is being approached. We undergo the opposite of what is coming. We come. Jouissance.
—Quintan Ana Wikswo, www.QuintanWikswo.com
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