9 x 9 x 9


I am about to become super annoy­ing on social media.

This week was the pre­mière of 9×9×9”, a new offer­ing by MPMP for this com­ing sea­son. Over the next nine months, a crack team of nine artists will put togeth­er a series of audio­vi­su­al minia­tures to be post­ed online, at a rate of nine per month.

These microludes1 are fash­ioned after the haiku, albeit one that is haunt­ed and fun­da­men­tal­ly changed by the expe­ri­ence of the pan­dem­ic. The imag­is­tic flash­es of the poet­ic form are no longer moments of height­ened focus, read­ing instead as points in a con­tin­u­um undis­turbed by any­thing much of note; its pen­chant for the quo­tid­i­an and the domes­tic no longer a source of enlight­en­ment, but a sim­ple result of the only pos­si­ble modal­i­ty of expe­ri­enc­ing left. Clas­si­cal­ly, haikus have observed the pas­sage of time through the chang­ing of sea­sons. And now, vex­ing­ly, so do we: Sum­mer was a relief, but we might be star­ing down a new wave come Win­ter.

The for­mat pos­es a num­ber of chal­lenges. The first of which is that this, ladies and gen­tle­men, will be a cir­cus act with­out a net. The cycle has not been com­posed ahead of time — and, in true film music fash­ion, the turn­arounds are quite tight.

This means, first and fore­most, that I lose the priv­i­lege of con­trol­ling form out­side of time. To para­phrase and man­gle a say­ing by Miguel Azguime, form is le temps des autres no more: scooch over, because it’s now also mine. I tread onwards with noth­ing but the faint artis­tic abil­i­ty of pre­view­ing a sort of future, propped up by an incip­i­ent sense of craft and unwar­rant­ed stub­born­ness. I assume Tol­stoy already knew, at the very least, how Anna Karen­i­na would end. In any case, it feels like the seri­al­ized nov­el will be less Tol­stoy and more Joyce’s Ulysses.

The cycle shall then be struc­tured by force of the symp­tom. Instead of pre­sent­ing, explain­ing, devel­op­ing motivic mate­r­i­al” (what­ev­er that stands for, nowa­days), I will instead have to cre­ate spaces that explain the ener­gies already con­tained in this ear­ly fab­ric of intu­itive­ly com­posed utter­ances. It is the rein­ter­pre­ta­tion of the symp­tom that bestows mean­ing (albeit a con­tin­gent one) on past affec­tions; each new inter­pre­ta­tion of a symp­tom reor­ga­nizes all its past occur­rences. This is what allows Lacan2 to col­or­ful­ly claim that repres­sion comes from the future: only at its apex is the symp­tom index­i­cal of its mas­ter sig­ni­fi­er. That is my game plan for coher­ence, both across the cycle and with­in each haiku: mov­ing for­ward by prob­ing the ele­ments that unset­tle the tex­ture of the past, to see what kind of impuls­es they betray. Or, alter­na­tive­ly, the oth­er way around: test­ing a cer­tain impulse’s flex­i­bil­i­ty to orga­nize behav­ior under dif­fer­ent cir­cum­stances. This appears to me, in any case, to be not too dis­sim­i­lar to the basic move­ment of the haiku: to enlight­en through sym­bol­ic jux­ta­po­si­tion — only turned inward.

The music, deft­ly played by Miguel Cos­ta, Fer­nan­do Brites, Jan Wierz­ba and Daniel Boli­to, accom­pa­nies the beau­ti­ful imagery put togeth­er by Mário Gajo de Car­val­ho and Agnes Meng. Sup­port­ing the whole endeav­or is a 81-strong string of haikus, woven togeth­er into an impres­sive qua­si-libret­to by Tatiana Bina.

  1. I thought I was bor­row­ing from Kurtág, mas­ter of the form. But aparent­ly I’m also bor­row­ing — unwit­ting­ly yet symp­to­mati­cal­ly — from a decade-old Blogspot page turned mes­sage-in-a-bot­tle (turned qua­si-art­work?) that calls a microlude that tiny delu­sion of grandeur when one thinks that their lat­est post, tweet or sta­tus update will make them famous”. Sounds appro­pri­ate. 

  2. Lacan was fea­tured in Squid Game, which makes this riff­ing on pop cul­ture” instead of her­met­ic pseu­do-int­elec­tu­al pos­tur­ing”. Get with the times.