My dear Brothers,
I write to you from Berlin, which is not my home although I come here often and I’m familiar with parts of the city. Would it be useful or interesting to lay out a map of my days here, just to prove that I’m not somewhere - or indeed someone - else? Pix or I didn’t happen. It’s warm here; suddenly the spring jus sprung up on us and everybody is sneezing and stripping down to t-shirts. Berlin is one of the few centric nodes on the tiny colonial map of the art world, full of people doing Projects and talking about their Work, you know the score. But of course there is no work here, which is an old song by now - a lullaby really, as soft and as sweet and as empty - sung to ease the steady passage of childlike trust fund Americans dropping German molly and dreaming European dreams. The ideal of the artist-professional, like the notion of flesh, is one of those distasteful modernist concepts we daren’t talk about because although it’s antiquated and impoverished we haven’t come up with anything truthful to replace it. And so we operate in a kind of rarefied duplicity; some of us work jobs or teach or study or make coffee while playing out our artist-professionality, where others have wealthy parents. It should be obvious that this is perfectly acceptable in context since the whole art thing, like the whole internet thing, runs on spectral resources whose origins are murky and uncomfortable.
But this is all getting pretty complicated for a simple postcard from a post-globalized post-nostalgic post-GDR IRL. I found these postcards at a touristy flea market and haggled them down from fifteen bucks to three. On another day I could’ve found them on the street; nobody cares about that shit. Back in the days of living from the trash I used to have amazing paper karma and I’d always find letters - copperplate longhand from the war, whole love stories, can you even imagine? Not so different from any other flirt I’ve ever known, but imagine waiting a month for a booty call to arrive in the post. Magazines, postcards, old shitty art work which I loved for the faded screen print inks and ill-advised brush strokes, flaking letraset from the early 80s in fonts too fucken weird to ever come back into fashion. My lover used to find hifi gear and records all the time, but my lover was a musician. I used to cry when they came around after market day and crunched up all the old LPs in the garbage grinder. Was nobody gonna care about this shit except me? What happens to all the music? Nothing, that’s what.
For every pyramid there are millions of sleeping stones underfoot that used to be houses where used to be people. In a tropical climate - like the Mexican jungle, for example - invertebrates can reduce a fully fleshed corpse to clean bones in under two weeks. Bones and paper can survive for hundreds of years in cool dry conditions. By the time you read this, these words will have been digitised into 32-bit jpegs, which don’t decay at all. Postcards are proxies for experience, like snapchats. Let my handwriting be the proxy for my body (sorry about my handwriting), and these images be the proxy for the objects, which are the proxy for my presence, the books I haven’t read, the art I haven’t seen, the parties I haven’t attended, the places I haven’t been. It does one good to imagine the previous life of a postcard. The poetry of Google Image search isn’t in the search field (because that’s just some dumb bot doing its clever thing and whatever anyone says there’s a limit to how interesting that can be, since machines are repetitive and their processes generally predictable) but in clicking through the images in their different contexts. An image can be forced to do whatever you want it to, of course, but not without ideology, another dirty word from the moderns. Viciously ironic jux aesthetics laugh at the earnestness of images, and shopped photos laugh at the idea of verisimilitude, “the camera doesn’t lie,” ha ha ha.
So I left Facebook, brothers. It’s another place with which I’m familiar though I don’t live there - still, I’ve spent a lot more time on Facebook than in Berlin. In recent years it feels like I’ve spent hours sitting around in the Facebook commons and shooting the shit with acquaintances and strangers who have nothing better to do. That’s how we know each other, after all, you and I. I miss you guys but not too much, since most of us have never met - and yet, I do dream of you occasionally, my brother, without ever really knowing what you look like. Avatars are defensive: those of us who are beautiful know that it’s both impossible and inadvisable to represent this in photographic likeness, and those of us who are not beautiful often make liberal use of the impossibility of representation to forego representation entirely. Tagged photographs went out of style as the paparazzi became passé (for a minute there, everyone was dying to be caught in the act of living their lives, the compromising snapshot a badge of honour and authenticity) but still I like them best of all, because I don’t trust any of us to tell the truth about ourselves, although images are never truthful and the whole thing is a costume party.
Facebook Friendship is rather like Internet Brotherhood; a loosely striated cluster of post-fordist labor relations and the network ties that increasingly represent social capital, which in our line of work are necessary assets that might or might not lead to real capital, or the kind of cultural capital that artists produce, which doesn’t mean money but which might be a meal ticket. We don’t talk about labour because we expect labour to be remunerated, so we talk about Work instead, which flattens everything out into a big utopian continuum in which process and materiality - those old modern ideals, oh brothers, are you rolling your eyes? - become every bit as obscure a truth as where our money comes from. Facebook Friendship ignores the class and race and age and gender differences that differentiate our experiences of life, but that’s all right because everyone is equal on the internet, and free to speak, and democratically invited to show their work on tumblr and be part of something bigger and channel the energetic force of the crowd, or rather, the cloud. The concept of Volksgemeinschaft, or “folk community” - a concept of organic commonality and quasi-mystical unity that overcomes class and gender barriers - was deployed in 1930s Germany to justify the one-party state. I’m not sayin’, I’m jus sayin.
wiktionary defines Brotherhood as - among other things - the whole body of persons engaged in the same business or profession, and also as “the feeling of kinship with and closeness to a group of people or all people.” I write this in the spirit of both of these, my brothers, and although my wrist is tired (when was the last time you sat down and hand-wrote a letter?) I’ve enjoyed sharing this time-space-object-proxy with you. I think about you every now and then, although we’ve never met, and appreciate your work, or at very least, the labor that went into it. It doesn’t matter really where I’m writing from, or whom I’m writing to. Not because we’re all equal on the internet but because this goes out on the wire to whereverwhere, and because the who and the where are subject to such contingencies of decay that someday they won’t matter anymore. The jpeg may live on, but tumblr will be gone someday too. I believe in connection; I believe in the brotherhood. I’d say “I’ll see you,” but since I don’t know what “see” and “you” would mean in context I’m not sure it’s true.
All my love,