“The Situation” – Arno Van Vlierberghe

Cabaret Wittgenstein is happy to publish an English language translation of “De Situatie”, one of the poems featured in Flemish poet Arno Van Vlierberghe’s début, Vloekschrift (2017). It was translated by Jonathan William Beaton.

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2016_12_27_16_29 — The outstretched hand — The non-world — Liberal nostalgia

2016_12_27_16_29. Finally, having arrived at the crossroads, we could see The Situation materialising. The political, economic, cultural, social situation. The nice houses emptied. The conference rooms, too. The cinemas. The party headquarters. The temples. This is the current time of writing. This is what we have to work with. This is, in brief, The Situation. It is at this moment – this one, indivisible moment – that I feel truly at home, a paid-up member of the most beautiful non-world that today has to offer. One with the indefatigable God-and-Fatherland voices. I.M., your outstretched hand is not mine. What is The Situation? Not factions but transactions. My brain now a stock market, a transfer zone where little becomes nothing. My work, my home, my nest. The organisation around me swells, contracts, encloses me like an amniotic sac where growth is still permitted. All around me the waste of the past century. A bundle of energy, alone in a space. What is The Situation? The poem as dialogue, an Arno that doesn’t want to talk.

Me, work – Anguish Language – The new barbarism – My resources, my tools

What is The Situation? And why should we shut it down? All that is solid melts into PR. Me, work. Dismantling the institution, in search of a community. Find more institution. Of course. Institutions, notions, people bent on power. Of course. The new barbarism. In brief, The Situation. My resources, my tools. Also The Situation. Heroically and ridiculously I march to work. Left-right-left-right-left-right, all charged up and full of potential, strategically shambolic. I don’t know yet what I’ll do. Play it straight like the others, why exactly I don’t know. To not be afraid anymore? Mindlessly and guilelessly buy what’s still left to buy. It’s gradually getting dark and hard to breathe. What is The Situation? Not work, but occupation. Hunting in a field of extreme power dynamics. Stretched and blind, I move through the 24/7 in search of respite. In search of slumbering resistance. The economically robust family. A war of my own, entirely mine to lose, to give up deferentially to a tangible enemy. I wish I had something hopeful to say, something useful. The predictable consolation I feel as member of a powerful set-up, worn like lubricated livery, a flag for parading, ragged but acceptable. Impatient capital, wait for me! I’ll be your sentry. There will never be a better now! To ra-di-ca-lise! What is The Situation? No one’s left, no one’s left and I’m alone, I’m alone now.

Praxis of love – Resumption of movement – Only echo – Exit

What is The Situation? It is almost morning and I’m standing at my post. Pondering the early aesthetics of war, corporate infighting and the sputtering blood that keeps me going. My breathing calm, my muscles warm again, my mind clear again. You in the centre would do well to mind your heads. There will never be a better now. The words and their echo are as ever they were. Hardly perceptible in the tumult of the city. In all our factories and in all our offices and all the stations and all the prisons and all the hospitals. Now only echo, and then no more. What is The Situation? With proud chin and head held high, I strangle my workplace. Bury it, leave it behind. What do you see now? It’s morning and I shred my skin on the world around me, mercilessly, coarsely. What do you see now? Forgetting in the rhythm of our bodies what movement was. What do you see now? That all your thinking in this world will be my thinking. That all your belief in this world will be my belief. What do you see now? The power of speculation, the power of difference. What do you see now? Cold intimacy, disguised as praxis of love, wiped away by a new wind that blusters through our history. What do you see now? A wedding, the street and the institution. What is The Situation? What is our duty? Radical empathy. What is The Situation? I forfeit the community that never was. What is The Situation? The forlorn vitality of an Arno. I won’t smooth my edges. Not for you, not for me. What is The Situation? I’m becoming impossible.

The goodbye – Radicality of Love – Centrophobia –Panic

What is The Situation? Why should we shut it down? And how? The words waft in from every dark corner. I have a proposal. Let’s usher in a new beginning. Not consecution but contradiction. Movement and stillness. Order and disorder. Light and darkness. Look closely and say what you see. A linguistic virus, fruit for the future. Believe in betrayal. In immobility, non-existence. Believe in terror. Desertion, courage, doubt, and what else? I see the prevailing facts for what they are and admit nothing. I honour. I believe. I want. Let’s begin with an indisputable fact: yes, it was ‘me’. My body is ready, drenched in the perfume of the past. I am taken up by the rhythm I didn’t know I lacked! I sing a song that closes the ranks, I believe in the fruit for the future that is the poet. What is The Situation? Think of the beginnings, the rhythmic resumption of movement. I don’t know yet what I’ll do. Anxious, cautious, driven, able, alive. I stand at my post and I sing: let the panic melt away.


Arno Van Vlierberghe is a Flemish poet born in 1990, based in Ghent (Belgium). His work has appeared in several Dutch literary magazines. ‘Vloekschrift’ (2017) is his first book of poetry.


“Sisters” – Anna Hetzer


perhaps birds dare to fly back
to the trails in the sky she drives
drives dozes and drinks whiskey

pressing the pace she speaks
speaks to her sister in a shirt
in the night and reads two sisters

rise again rise on horses
they bet names of their lovers
and order a taxi in cash


sie, schwestern

zurück trauen sich vögel vielleicht
in die spuren am himmel fährt sie
fährt döst und trinkt whiskey

drängenden schritts spricht sie
spricht mit ihrer schwester im hemd
in der nach und liest sie two sisters

rise again rise auf ihre pferde
setzen sie namen ihrer geliebten
und ordern ein taxi in bar

(veröffentlicht in: zwischen den prasselnden punkten, Verlagshaus Berlin 2016)



was it in an arena or on the plains?
at a gallop. the swirl on the soil

the groaning of leather and harness

then steady. we’ve captured all of these scenes
quite differently

I saw myself to be like him
and you yourself with him this way



arena oder prärie?
galopp war es. der wirbel im boden.

das ächzen des leders und geschirr-reiben.

dann halt. wir haben den ablauf
ganz anders verstanden. da

wollte ich so wie er sein
und du so mit ihm.

(veröffentlicht in: zwischen den prasselnden punkten, Verlagshaus Berlin 2016)


Anna Hetzer is a German poet born in 1986. Alongside with publications in magazines and anthologies, she has published two collections of poetry: Zwischen den prasselnden Punkten (Verlagshaus Berlin, 2016) und Stempelkissenbuch (Sukultur 2017). She joined the Berlin poetry group G13 in 2011. Moreover she regularly works together with composers and fine-artists. Anna Hetzer lives and works in Berlin.

“Ethnographic Expeditions in Fiction” – Ícaro Lira

For the past five years, Ícaro Lira has been analysing the implications and the development of political and historical acts of Brazilian history through documental works, archivist, archeological and fiction. His exhibitions present similar structures to ‘museums’, reuniting several forgotten fragments, and producing a system of objects which articulates artistic and non-artistic materials and a set of actions, not necessarily confined to an artistic object, but scattered in exhibitions, books, studios, debates, walks etc.

Icaro Lira’s Museu do Estrangeiro (Foreigner’s Museum, 2015-18), for example, is an ongoing project the artist is collaborating on with refugees and immigrants in the city of São Paulo. It’s part of his Ethnographic Expeditions in Fiction, which has already taken several artists to work at the site of one of the bloodiest civil wars in Brazilian History, the Canudos War (1895-1897), a bloodshed imortalized in one of the canonical works of Brazilian Literatura, ‘Os Sertões’ (1902), by Euclides da Cunha, released recently by Penguin Books in a new translation. For the 3rd Biennale of Bahia, among the group of artists and researchers he invited were the curator Beatriz Lemos and the artist Paulo Nazareth.


Renata Scovino introduced an interview with the artist about the project “Desterro” (Exile): “In the project ‘Desterro – Exile Project’ Ícaro Lira develops a research in the field of visual arts which seeks interdisciplinary partnerships in sociology, anthropology and archeology. His work includes several actions that start from the need to stay in the place of investigation. The search in the archives of the institutions, the cohabitation and the interviews with local residents, as well as notes, drawings, diaries, videos and photos. All feeds his project. It can be said that the work of Ícaro questions the notion of art which separates the process and the documentation. He goes way beyond that, since, for the artist it’s not enough to collect material and replicate museum procedures. The work of Ícaro Lira is based on the archive as a possibility of redemption of the past, is not the mere recognition of an event that interests, but a kind of knowledge that opens to empty, absences and oblivion.”

figure 1 - map

Ícaro Lira – “Exiles

He would come to say in that interview with Renata Scovino:

Ícaro Lira: “My first contact with Canudos was with the Glauber Rocha film and then with the book Sertões by Euclides da Cunha. Antonio Conselheiro is from Quixeramobim in the central backwoods of Ceará – my home state – and I always had a very close contact with his image. I worked initially with materials from the National Library (in Rio), Joaquim Nabuco Foundation (Recife) and Bahia Public Archive (within the Bahia Biennial). My research proceeds fundamentally on the fields with the locals, with the survivors and their descendants. I consider all my work as a single body, a continuous research on forced migration movements. I try not to put things in frames, works are open ideas and their formalization in the museum or gallery also follows this path. There is no final form, but an ever-changing process.”

Ícaro Lira – Museu do Estrangeiro (Foreigner’s Museum)


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Brazilian novelist Lima Barreto (1881-1922), who unmasked the Brazilian hypocrisies towards race and the blatant racism in the first years of the Republic, in a picture taken when he was first committed to a mental institution in 1909.

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(set of racial denominations used in Brazil to describe various skin colour tones)

Ícaro Lira,​ was born in Fortaleza, Brazil, in 1986. In 2013 Icaro received the IPHAN Art and Heritage Honor Award, National Historical and Artistic Heritage Institute. In 2014 he participated of 3rd Biennial of Bahia with the work “Desterro, Ethnographic Expedition of Fiction”. In 2017 participates of Rumos Itaú Cultural with the project Expedition Catastrophe: for an Archeology of Ignorance And in 2017 of the 20th Festival of Contemporary Art Sesc_Videobrasil at SESC Pompéia in São Paulo-SP.

He has held individual exhibitions at the Paço das Artes (SP), Cultural Center Oswald de Andrade (SP), Central Gallery (SP), IBEU Gallery (RJ), Centro Cultural Banco do Nordeste (Fortaleza-CE) and SESC (Crato-CE). In the last years, he has participated in art residencies in Brazil and Latin America, among them Capacete Entertainments (RJ), Terra UNA (MG), Instituto Sacatar (BA), Red Bull Station (SP), VATELÓN (Soriano, Uruguay) and LA ENE Aires, (Argentina). He lives and works in São Paulo, Brazil.

“Poof! The Captain!” – Oskar May

Cabaret Wittgenstein present today two pieces by Austrian poet, performer and producer Oskar May: the soundpiece “Poof! The Captain!”, followed by the text piece “Traktionen” (in the German original) and its English reconstruction as “Tractions”.

Oskar May – “Poof! The Captain!” (2017)


Oskar May

Du hast gezögert
Kriege waren gewonnen
zogen an dir vorüber

Hast nie getötet
einen Menschen
einem Mensch

Bautest eine Welt
keinerlei Welt
erbaut man dagegen

Wirst ferner verzögern
Millionen ziehen vorüber
nie einen Menschen getötet

Bei Zeiten aber
nie einen einzigen
hin zur Liebe

Nie einen einzigen
um den Globus
der allein ist

ist er alleinig
in unseren Händen
unsere Hände

Unseren Händen
wenn sie beerdigt
so sie geerdet

Wärst wie vereinbart
zu gesegneter Zeit

Aber keine Welt
wird verjähren
wird erbaut

Doch was schreist
trockene Hälse
trockenen Häusern

Entgegen Phrasen
hinüber zu Phrasen
entgegen der Gewinde

Kriege waren gewonnen
erschlichen in Farben
und Anzahlen

In Farben dem Wind
schlichtender Flächen
von schalen Händen

Von Händen
unseren jämmerlichen

Was schreist
dummer Menschen
befehdende Hände

Was schreist
dummes Mensch
Kriege und Welten

zogen vorüber.



You were late
wars were won
passed you by

Never killed
a man
towards a man

Built a world
and no such world
can be built against

Will be late
millions pass by
never killed a man

But in times
not a single one
towards love

Not a single one
around the globe
which is sole

Be it solely
in our hands
our hand

Our hands
if inhumed
thus humanized

If only you
had passed by
in good time

But no world
will be stale
will be built

Why cry
dry throats
be dry chimneys

Against phrase
towards phrases
against threads

Wars were won
fooled by colors
and numbers

By colors
numb palms
of hands

Of hands
our miserable
pleb hands

Why cry
foolish men’s
feuding hands

Why cry
foolish man
wars and worlds

passed by.


Oskar May is an Austrian poet, performer and producer born in 1991. He has released the EP ‘The Lane’ (Gully Havoc, 2016) and is part of the Philosophy Unbound collective. He lives and works in Vienna, Austria.

“State Record 14035405: Pisternak” – James Proctor

State Record 14035405: Pisternak

Pisternak (1976-2011) was an exceptionally gifted child. His intelligence was matched only by his melancholy. He, at the age of 14, became the youngest ever member of the “Sovetskaya Kosmicheskaya Programma” or Soviet Space Program. What follows is an extract from Dr. Vladimir Vladimirovna’s official psychological report (see Notes: 1) on Pisternak’s entry to the program.

Note 1: Sovetskaya Komicheskaya Programma, (1990). Initial Psychological Report: Pisternak (14). (Moscow. Kremlin. P4)


Pisternak started thinking about love when he was a boy. Back then, in the eighties, love was just beginning. It attracted a certain type of people, enthusiastic people. He spent the whole summer studying the science of it “beneath a container of explosive hydrogen”.


Love is thin and shiny
Love is dark and slippery
Love keeps the cost down
Love is not trying to be cagey
Love is clean and drinkable
Love is burning money
Love is a heart attack
Love could be quite a big thing
Love is the north-pole and the south-pole in one go
Love is a big accident
Love is clean-shaven with dimples
Love is normal, absolutely normal
Love is a self-delusional process
Love is maybe two years
Love is a remote region in Siberia
Love is the Malaysian tourism board
Love needs proof you can deliver
Love is a bird named Tim.
Love cannot do nothing else
Love is the 1984 Paralympic games
Love is Germany and its allies
Love hovers somewhere and waits
Love can deliver cargo faster than an ocean liner
Love may not be right for you
Love is about 50 feet longer than a Boeing 747
Love sends you kisses and champagne
Love is being built in Bedford, England
Love has about a thousand private shareholders
Love is Europe’s largest indoor waterpark.

In 2005, at the age of twenty-nine, Pisternak brought love to the United States. He knew no English, but he did know love. He rented an office in New York City, hired a translator, and proclaimed himself an American lover but he found no customers.

Pisternak’s translator was a young aeronautical student of New York University named Nikita Panamerenko (see Notes: 2).  Nikita and Pisternak were close friends. Despite this they regularly argued, usually about the subject of love. In Pisternak’s words, kindly translated by Nikita, “He is world leading expert in love”. The second topic on which they rarely agreed was Physics or as Pisternak referred to it “The science of youth”. This subject interested Nikita. He would talk at great length about what he called “Verticalism”, or man’s obsession with anything that “reaches for the stars”. Pisternak dismissed this roundly as “pseudo-academic jargon”.  What follows is a transcribed extract from a conversation held in Pisternak’s office on 36th Street Astoria, Queens, April 19th, 2008.

Note 2: (Figure 1) Nikita and Ice-cream, Pisternak, Coney Island, 2006.


Pisternak holds forth
That surely it must be
That the earth surrounds the sky
And not the other
As believed by his bookish
And wrong-headed colleague.

“He puts his faith in science, this is the problem.
Too much testing, too much rigor.
He forgets his craft.
The science of youth, that’s all it is.
One must feel a theory.
Hold a buttercup to its chin; bounce it on one’s knee
Before letting it loose in the forest of thought.
Proof never proved anything.
It simply greases the gears
Of those who lack imagination.”

Our next meeting would happen more than a year later due in part to Pisternak’s legal status in the United States (see Notes: 3). In this interval period Nikita had encouraged Pisternak to broaden his interests. As Nikita confided in me “The more time he is here the more time he is mad”. Pisternak had begun attending poetry workshop held at the local Russian community centre. He informed me, through our faithful translator, that he is now “world leading expert in subject”. The following passage, taken from his notebook, makes up part of a short lecture he had been asked to give in the summer of 2010 at Harvard University (see Notes: 4)

Note 3: See Pisternak vs The State of New York, 2009.
Note 4: This claim has never been independently verified by any faculty member at Harvard University.


Of course it is very difficult to pin point when poetry was first produced. A number of technological advances contributed to its conception but it is widely regarded to have begun on January 21st 1962 at The Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. At the height of the cold war the Kremlin felt it necessary to create a form of literature impervious to radiation.

Early critics suggested that poetry would become a menace to all western countries. The director of the F.B.I., J. Edgar Hoover, commented that, “The menace of poetry in this country will remain a menace until the American people make themselves aware of the techniques of poetry. No one who truly understands what it really is can be taken in by it”.

The second major date came on July 20th 1969 when the USA successfully landed the poet Neil Armstrong on the moon. The opening line of his “moon poem” is one of the most well known in the field.

“One small step for a poet, one giant leap for poetry”
unfortunately the transmission cut out and the rest was lost to history.

In 1972 the poetic technician Roy Tomlinson introduced the first standard poetry format using the line space to separate the title of the poem with the poem itself, this would become know as P-mail.

Much of the 70s and 80s was characterized by ideological differences in poetic practice the world over. The intervention of American poets only ever made things worse.

Fast-forward to 1994 and the channel tunnel opened between England and France. This was a turning point for cross channel poetry, making it possible for a poem to be written in London at breakfast and read in Paris by lunch.

In the year leading up to the millennium, fear of the Y2K bug gripped the world of poetry. A suspected glitch in the system of electronic typewriters led people to believe that all poetry written pre 2000 would be lost on the stroke of midnight. Many people spent the months leading up to the millennium stockpiling poetry, which in turn lead to a great poetry surplus during the first months of the year 2000.

As of 2002 most E.U. countries adopt the Poem as their currency in a bid to ease trade across national borders. Britain declined to join its European cousins in the new currency due to the arrogant view that its poetry was of a higher value than that of other countries.

In 2009 the USA elected its first poet president, Barack Obama.

Starting in 2010 the biggest poetry crises the world has ever known takes full affect, due in large part to the irresponsible actions of poets working in the financial sector.

For Pisternak poetry was a private hobby. He never read his work in public. After he was eaten, myself and Nikita searched his notebooks, which mainly consisted of technical drawings (see Notes: 5) but could find little in the way of poetry, although neither of us profess to have any aptitude for the subject. We did find a short passage, which does appear to have at least some poetic qualities.

Note 5: (Figure 2) Technical drawing of airship, taken from Pisternak’s notebook, June 2011.


Take my hand it is made as yours is out
of bones and hand take my voice, toss it in
sleep as your own, variously you have
known me and in degrees I have known you
also walking here and now as far from the
world As we are and thinking this makes us
close In the fold of love that you say is
naught But tricks and light and still we go on
like this talking or not talking which is fine. Now what about this poem then? It’s 10 lines already and you haven’t said anything you think that’s clever but it isn’t its just words and we can all say that your words ain’t clever. 11 lines now probably, is anyone counting? Probably not, we can ask at the end. The poem can’t write itself and if it can then why are you holding the pen? 13 lines now, goodness! How can you go on pretending? We already agreed that the words you use are all wrong and what about this poem then? Somewhere in the region of 16 lines I guess.

Our final meeting occurred on the 24th of October 2011 in the Apshawa nature reserve, New Jersey State. We had planned a days hiking with the intention of ruminating on the article “Pan-romanticism in the Atomic Age” (see Notes: 6). Nikita and Pisternak were deep in conversation on man’s need for, as Pisternak phrased it ,”transitional space” when suddenly a 300lb black bear (see Notes: 7) snatched him from behind. The following is a transcribed recording from my Dictaphone, and to my utmost regret, Pisternak’s last words.

Note 6: Jolas, Eugene “Pan-Romanticism in the Atomic Age,” ed. Eugene Jolas, New York: Vangard Press, 1949.


Note 7: (Figure 3) The bear that ate Pisternak, Nikita Panamerenko, 2011.


Bear! Unhand me from your mouth
And you will see
That we are not dissimilar
In wit and irony.
You are mainly of fur
,Which I intend to release you from,
As you intend to release me from my skin.
Think of us here and now, naked
In our lovers’ embrace.
Then think of your poor mother,
how upset she would be,
And your father,
He worked himself furless
For you
Now go home,
Let this not be the end for me,
But the beginning for us.
I love you bear.


James Proctor was born in North Shields, England, in 1987. He studied first in Liverpool before moving to London, where he lived in Cable Street Studios, one of the main creative hubs of East London. It was here that he co-founded and hosted the now legendary Cable Street Electric open mic. This is where the performative aspect of his work began to take shape. After three years of living in London he moved to Barcelona where he continued writing and performing, often in collaboration with American poet Ed Smallfield. Back in England, he went to Newcastle University where he studied for a Master’s degree in Creative Writing. He has been published by Verse Kraken Magazine, Kozmosis and Noise Medium. He self publishes the majority of his work on his website jamesproctorpoetry.co.uk. James Proctor lives and works in Berlin.

Texts from “Wunderkammer (27 catalogues)” – Nils Christian Moe-Repstad

The following are excerpts from Nils Christian Moe-Repstad’s ‘Wunderkammer (27 catalogues)’, which is a systemic book of poetry, consisting of 742 three line poems, divided into 27 titled catalogues over 848 pages, and built upon the mathematical “Mandelbrotset”. Translated by Ren Powell.



The Norwegian poet Nils Christian Moe-Repstad is the author of nine collections and collaborated with the musicians Nils Petter Molvær, Eivind Aarset, Jan Bang and Erik Honoré on the 2013 album Teori om det eneste (Theory of the Singular). His most recent collection, Wunderkammer (27 catalogues), has been nominated for the Brage Prize and the Norwegian Critics Prize for Literature.

“The Visit” and other poems – Adelaide Ivánova

We post here four poems by Adelaide Ivánova, out of her début collection O Martelo (“The Hammer“), translated from the Portuguese by Chris Daniels. The volume was originally published in Portugal in 2016 on Douda Correria, and was recently released in Brazil by Editora Garupa.

Four poems by Adelaide Ivánova
translated from the Portuguese by Chris Daniels

the visit

how many moths
spiders lice
and other beasts
infest inhabit
the visitor’s mattress
Humboldt never went to get
faking forgetfulness
after it was too late
and we were way too
in love to go get
the visitor’s mattress
in the garret
so we made do with this

how many moths
spiders lice
and other beasts
in another accursed
mattress they witnessed
another mattress
another visit
the quick start
the violence
the blood
good blood no
there was arrival
and then silence

because of sand web dust
moss mold spider
i jumped to the other
bed other beasts
before had inhabited me
already ants
mites pisceans
fleas only
moths and Humboldt
didn’t screw me

years before the curse
though sand web dust
i could never again
leave that bed
there are beasts less trustworthy
than moths there’s the hyena
fish snake scabies
if there are 2 on the mattress
for 1 visitor there will
always be one who is not

the cat

the official didn’t take me seriously
in the least and she asked me all slick
did i really want to open
an investigation she was wearing a
wonderfully awful outfit
pants and blouse
jeans on jeans
after reading through the papers
the official made me think of janus
the roman king with two faces and
the cat with two faces who
died at 15 it’s rare
for a cat like that to live so long
yet the official lives on in her little outfit
jeans on janus.


the sow

the clerk is a person
and she’s curious just
like all persons are curious
she asks me why i drank so
much i don’t answer but i
know people drink to die
only not to die a lot
she asks me why didn’t i
scream since i wasn’t
gagged i don’t answer but i know
we’re all born with the gag
the clerk in her starched
white shirt
is an excellent officer and
typist she reminds me so much
of a song
of an animal i can’t remember which.


the vulture

corpus delicti is
the expression used
when law is breached and
traces of the fact of a crime
are left making the body a
place and of the crime an
adjective the examination
consists of seeing and being
seen (parties also
consist of these)

lying on a gurney with
four doctors around me talking
about mucous membranes the strike
the lack of disposable cups
and deciding in front of my open
legs if after work should they
all go to the bar or what?
the doctor from the institute
of legal medicine wrote his report
not looking at my face
talking on his cell phone

me and the doctor have a body
and at least two other things in common:
we both love talking on the phone
and going to the bar
the doctor is a person
he deals with dead men
and living women
(he calls them pieces of


Adelaide Ivánova (b. 1982 in Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil) is a Brazilian journalist, photographer, writer, and translator. Her first two books are autonomy (São Paulo, Pingado-Prés, 2014), and Polaróides (Recife, Césarea, 2014). Her work has been shown in Brazil, Argentina, the US, Germany, France, and Spain, and is in the collections of L’arthotèque (Brest, France) and Kunst Dieselkraftwerk (Cottbus, Germany). Her writing, translations, and photographs have been published in journals like i-D (UK), Colors (Italy), The Huffington Post (US), Modo de Usar & Co. (Brazil), Suplemento Pernambuco (Brazil), Der Greif (Germany), Vogue and Marie Claire (Brazil), Ojo de Pez (Spain), and Vision (China), among others. She lives and works between Cologne and Berlin.

“Conakry” (2013) – a video by Filipa César with Grada Kilomba & Diana McCarty

“Conakry” (2013), 10’20”, original languages: English and Portuguese. Directed by Filipa César. Written and Performed by Grada Kilomba and Diana McCarty.

“Conakry” is a homage to Amílcar Cabral. This poetic cinematographic essay is a single shot 16mm film staged at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, in Berlin, and based on archival images of the liberation struggle in Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde, against portuguese colonization. Directed by Filipa César, written and performed by Grada Kilomba and Diana McCarty, “Conakry” reflects on Amílcar Cabral and the importance of film archive in a post-liberation African world.

The focus is on the documentary film reel of a particular event, shot by Flora Gomes, Sana Na N’Hada, Josefina Crato and José Columba Bolama – “The Week of Information” hosted in Conakry, at the Palais du People, in 1972, during the liberation struggle, where Amílcar Cabral curates an exhibition on the state of the war against Portuguese domination. McCarty narrates as a radio host explaining the events as the camera moves through the building to find Kilomba, who relates the historical relevance and amnesia of these images. “Conakry” describes and exposes how accessing almost forgotten footage of militant imaginary can be an instrument for recovering memory.


“Aurelio in Flight” – Pierre Alferi

Cabaret Wittgenstein posts today an unpublished text by French author Pierre Alferi, in Éric Trudel’s English translation followed by its original

Aurelio in Flight
Pierre Alferi

(translated from the original French by Éric Trudel)

Gaetana Moroder’s blog,
nacelle 146.

Aurelio left us last night or early this morning. His fall didn’t really catch me by surprise. Lately, few words were spoken in his presence, which had become barely noticeable. His inexpressive face had seemingly turned to stone and it discouraged us. Every day he spent hours alone on the deck despite the bitter cold. His head hung from his bundled body, as if fastened to a neck deprived of any muscle.

He had no close relative left in the Corolla. He was without news of the captain of one of the Calyx’s capsules, a distant nephew. Back when he was still trying to communicate with us, he had mentioned a Chilean wife, but she had divorced him before the Rapture, childless. Hence, at fifty and counting, he was a natural contender for the big dive.

His cell will be an ideal nursery for Clara, his closest neighbor. While we refrain from alluding to this, one can’t exclude that the news of a pregnancy aboard may have been an incitement, if not a trigger. Everyone knows that the birth rate, as low as it may be, still surpasses mortality, especially since the cryocells were opened. And it’s no secret that the frequency of falls, in slow but steady increase, has helped stabilize our demographics, and thus the occupancy rate throughout the fleet.

I’d lie if I said that I’ll miss Aurelio very much. I met him when I was still a teenager, and twenty years of promiscuity have more or less worn down any feeling he ever induced in me. Luis, Clara, Rod, myself – of course we all actively looked for him this morning, both inside and outside. But two hours later, when we gathered in the jacuzzin to commemorate him, we quickly agreed that his departure, as disquieting as it was, was ultimately convenient.

Tact is a virtue we all recognized in him. As we were getting out of the tub, Clara, her voice breaking with emotion, expressed gratitude and pressed her hand on her belly while keeping it underwater to supplement her caloric intake. Then Rod, having already showered and put on his bathrobe, paid tribute to him in his native tongue and, as he helped Clara to stand up, praised his sense of timing and propriety*. Not simply an awareness of what was the proper thing to do, he explained, but of what is truly appropriate for others.

Still, I don’t believe it was a sacrifice. In my view, Aurelio’s endless stays on the deck, his self composure and his lack of expression did not suggest some inner struggle, a project one delays or hesitates to bring to completion, but rather a kind of nostalgia of Earth, gentle and yet hopeless. He only took with him what he was wearing at the time, and, for the sake of decency, we have agreed to wait a week before we consider how to recycle his belongings.

I had just woken up when Luis came to warn me, soon after noticing that Aurelio had vanished. So we can’t rule out that he was still alive at that very moment. At least this is what I immediately thought, and I spent the following few minutes trying to imagine every stage of his fall, while still making sure that he was not hiding somewhere in a corner.

At first he must’ve enjoyed his physical liberation. First minute: not a single obstacle on the horizon. Nothing but the air’s resistance, which makes the softest of mattresses. He stretches in every direction, assesses the flexibility of his ankles, his wrists and his neck as he rotates his head, his heels and his fists. He shakes off decades of anchylosis by waving arms and legs. He arches his back, as if pole vaulting. He curls up and counts to five – or ten. Then he spreads his limbs out as much as he possibly can.

This is, in any event, what I would have done in his situation. A sway of the hips is enough to turn the X shape he’s adopted into the spokes of a wheel. Aurelio becomes the Vitruvian Man spinning like a hoop. After a few seconds of circling, stretching and frolicking, he notices blood coming out of his ears – his eardrums burst as he broke the sound barrier.

Third minute: the silence is exquisite. Aurelio shuts his eyes to better savor it. An instant, that seems lengthy. Traveling at 600 miles/hour, he nearly fell asleep on the vapor pillows, cushions, bolsters and beddings pressed around him as if to assemble a celestial safety net, a web strung by titans, a king size* canopy bed. Except that the said cushions, beddings, bolsters and pillows explode upon contact, go up in smoke, the white bed sheet unravels, weaves out and Aurelio falls through it. Long grey threads dissipate in his wake, leaving behind them a colorless but increasingly dense fog. Two or three minutes go by, unnoticed, in a neutral setting, muffled, opaque, vaguely humid.

Suddenly – sixth minute –, the veil is torn and a landscape welcomes him with open arms. A clearer landscape than those he used to catch a glimpse of between the layers of clouds, as we’ve been hovering for ages above this flooded corner of West Africa. The littoral of what was formally Gabon, a dwarf country halved by the rising sea within a single generation, appears and begins to take shape and consistence. Aurelio opens his eyelids, reddened by the air’s friction and the rising heat, as wide as ever.

At the moment he sees the coast stand out against the water, the waves and the rolling billows, a smile – a smile I have never seen there before, a smile he probably didn’t even know he could make, but one that I dream of and wish for him – spreads across his face. Fascinated, he makes out the narrow line of sand that separates, here and there, the jungle from the ocean. He notes that everywhere else the sea swamps and soaks the fermenting shrubbery, the seaweed-colored forest, like a muddy puddle. If I were him, I’d take thirty seconds more to admire the caps of the decaying canopy, afloat like scattered islands made of lichen.

Seventh minute: the imminent impact does cause, in the end, a slight stress, and the adrenaline rush blurs his vision. But Aurelio pulls himself together. His numb fingers even manage to fasten the last button of his jacket, which was flapping in the wind. He now runs them through his thinning hair. The dirty blue of a shallow in a cove swallows his field of vision. Only a few seconds left. He straightens himself, breathes deeply, eyes staring wide. He is ready for his appointment.

[translated from Spanish]

*in English in the original French.


Aurèle en vol

Blog de Gaetana Moroder,
nacelle 146.

Aurèle nous a quittés cette nuit ou tôt ce matin. Sa chute ne m’a pas surprise plus que ça. Ces derniers temps il s’échangeait peu de paroles en sa présence, qui s’était faite plus que discrète. Son visage fermé avait pris un aspect minéral qui nous décourageait. Chaque jour il passait seul des heures sur la coursive malgré le froid. Sa tête paraissait pendre de son torse emmitouflé, retenue par un cou sans muscles.

Il n’avait plus de parent proche dans la Corolle. Il était sans nouvelles d’un vague neveu commandant de bord d’une capsule du Calice. Quand il faisait encore des efforts pour communiquer, il avait évoqué devant nous son mariage avec une Chilienne, mais dont il avait divorcé avant le Ravissement sans avoir eu d’enfant. À cinquante ans et des poussières, il était donc un candidat naturel au plongeon.

Sa cellule fera une pouponnière parfaite pour Clara, sa voisine immédiate. Quoique nous nous soyons interdit toute allusion, on ne peut pas exclure que l’annonce d’une grossesse dans la nacelle ait joué un rôle, je ne dis pas déclencheur, mais d’incitation. Nul n’ignore que la natalité, si basse qu’elle soit, reste nettement supérieure à la mortalité proprement dite, surtout depuis l’ouverture des glacelles. Et c’est un secret de Polichinelle que la fréquence des chutes, en lente mais régulière augmentation, contribue a stabiliser la démographie, et donc le taux d’occupation dans l’ensemble de la flotte.

Je mentirais si je disais qu’Aurèle va beaucoup me manquer. Je l’ai connu encore adolescente, et vingt ans de promiscuité ont érodé à peu près tous les sentiments qu’il a pu m’inspirer. Luis, Clara, Rod, moi – nous l’avons bien sûr, ce matin, tous cherché activement, dedans puis dehors. Mais quand, deux heures plus tard, nous nous sommes réunis dans la jacuzzine pour évoquer son souvenir, nous sommes vite convenus que son départ, si consternant soit-il, était finalement opportun.

La délicatesse est une vertu que nous lui reconnaissons tous. En posant la main sur son ventre, qu’elle maintenait immergé pour un supplément calorique tandis que nous sortions du bain, Clara nous a confié sa gratitude avec un sanglot dans la voix. À la suite de quoi Rod, qui l’aidait à se relever après s’être douché puis couvert d’un peignoir, lui a rendu hommage dans sa langue maternelle en louant son sens du timing et de la propriety. Non pas des convenances, expliqua-t-il, mais de ce qui convient réellement à autrui.

Pour autant je ne crois pas à un sacrifice. À mes yeux, les interminables séjours d’Aurèle sur la coursive, son calme et son absence d’expression ne suggéraient pas un débat intérieur, un projet qu’on hésite ou tarde à exécuter, mais plutôt une nostalgie, douce quoique sans issue, de la Terre. Il n’y a emporté que ce qu’il portait sur lui, et nous nous accordons pour respecter un délai de décence d’une semaine avant d’envisager le recyclage de ses affaires.

Quand Luis m’a prévenue, juste après l’avoir remarquée, de la disparition d’Aurèle, je venais de me réveiller. Il n’est donc pas exclu qu’il ait été encore en vie à ce moment-là. C’est ce que j’ai pensé tout de suite, et j’ai donc passé les minutes suivantes à essayer d’imaginer, tout en vérifiant qu’il ne s’était pas caché dans un coin, chacune des étapes de sa chute.

Il a d’abord dû jouir de sa libération physique. Première minute : plus un obstacle à l’horizon. L’air seul, dont la résistance fait le plus moelleux des matelas. Il s’étire en tout sens, éprouve à loisir la souplesse de ses chevilles, de ses poignets, de sa nuque en faisant rouler sa tête, ses talons et ses poings. Il secoue bras et jambes pour vaincre une ankylose de plusieurs décennies. Il se cambre comme un perchiste. Il se pelotonne, compte jusqu’à cinq – ou dix. Alors il projette, en les écartant au maximum, ses quatre membres.

C’est en tout cas ce que j’aurais fait à sa place. Cet X qu’il forme alors, un déhanchement suffit à en faire les rayons d’une roue. Aurèle devient l’Homme de Vitruve lancé comme un cerceau. Après quelques dizaines de secondes de rotation, d’étirements et de galipettes, il s’avise que ses oreilles saignent, parce qu’il s’est crevé les tympans en franchissant le mur du son.

Minute trois : le silence est exquis. Aurèle ferme les yeux pour mieux le savourer. Un temps, qui paraît long. À près de mille kilomètres/heure, il s’est presque endormi sur des coussins, polochons, traversins, édredons de vapeur qui se sont pressés alentour et forment un filet de sécurité céleste, une toile tendue par des titans, un lit à baldaquin king size. Sauf que lesdits coussins, édredons, traversins, polochons explosent à son contact, ils partent en fumée, le drap blanc s’effiloche, se détisse, Aurèle lui passe entre les mailles. Sur son passage des filaments grisâtres se dissipent, font place à un brouillard incolore de plus en plus dense. Deux ou trois minutes passent insensiblement dans un milieu neutre amorti, opaque, vaguement humide.

Mais soudain – minute six –, le voile se déchire et un paysage tend les bras. Un paysage plus net que ceux qu’il entr’apercevait entre les couches de nuages, depuis des lustres que nous nous balançons au-dessus de ce coin inondé d’Afrique de l’Ouest. Le littoral de l’ex-Gabon, pays nain réduit de moitié par la montée des eaux en une génération, épaissit, se révèle, se précise. Les paupières d’Aurèle, rougies par le frottement de l’air et la chaleur croissante, s’écartent comme jamais.

Un sourire que je ne lui connais pas, que je lui rêve, que je lui souhaite, et dont il doit être inconscient lui-même, fend son visage tandis qu’il voit la côte se découper, l’eau se plisser, l’écume rouler. Il distingue, fasciné, le mince trait de sable qui sépare encore par endroits la jungle de la mer. Il vérifie que partout ailleurs celle-ci trempe comme une flaque boueuse les sous-bois fermentés, les massifs couleur d’algue. À sa place, je prendrais trente secondes de plus pour observer les calottes de la canopée fanée, qui surnagent çà et là comme des îles de lichen.

Minute sept : l’imminence de l’impact produit tout de même un léger stress, et la décharge d’adrénaline trouble sa vue. Mais Aurèle se ressaisit. Ses doigts anesthésiés parviennent même à fermer le dernier bouton de sa veste qui claquait au vent. Il les passe maintenant dans sa chevelure clairsemée. Le bleu sale d’un haut fond dans une crique mange son champ de vision. Plus que quelques secondes. Il se rajuste, prend une longue inspiration, écarquille les yeux. Il est prêt pour son rendez-vous.

[traduit de l’espagnol]


Pierre Alferi is a French author, born in Paris in 1963. He has published Le Chemin familier du poisson combatif (poetry, 1992), Sentimentale journée (poetry, 1997), Handicap (avec Jacques Julien, poetry, 2000), and Le Cinéma des familles (novel, 1999), Les Jumelles (novel, 2009) and Après vous (novel, 2010), among others. Pierre Alferi lives and works in Paris.