Love Letters

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The following essay first appeared on the website for The Eternal Internet Brotherhood, a gathering of artists, writers, curators and others interested in internet culture on the greek island of Anafi from August 9th until the 23rd. It was written by Burke while attending the event. 

love letter

I’ve decided to write love letters because that’s what you do when you’re in love. I saw that great document today - all text and in a block, from Slovenia, I think. It was from the 90s. So basically, people got together, and they found an old or cheap building, and they inserted a sound system or bands or DJs, and for 36hrs or more they would dance, presumably, make out, get together, find myriad tangents through the throbbing artery of night. And by morning they couldn’t even see each other, just feel under their shoes the concrete, every little pore of it. They’d sleep in the cracks for half an hour, and get up and go again, right back where they started, that firstness again. And that amazing 90s hair, just enough gel still in for that cow’s lip, or curtains, throbbing, clothes that were all sportswear and primary colours. Showing the bottom part of your fist to each other, and pumping it. Chewing your own lips. Smiles that contorted and scarred our faces. Imagine finding someone in that moment, every freeze frame of the artificial lighting their body getting closer, each a different angle, a different record sleeve. And they don’t even look up, you just know as the record needle moves inwards that there’s an ultimate trajectory to all of this, you call it in your molten state a teleology, and in the repetitive stuttering beat on which all life is you hear, every revolution, “Hegel”. Or maybe that’s just the noise in the cracks in the ceiling, or maybe it’s some sort of broken signal, maybe it’s the sound the lights make. You think you hear it behind you, and you turn round, and then she’s dancing with you. All this is anachronistic of course. All these famous spaces are closed down, unopen, all the ravers with jobs and even family. Seagulls flying round them, broken bottles nesting by fences, all the detritus of late Communism, late Capitalism, everything. They go there still though, to this day, maybe once in their whole adult lifetime, just to walk round, slightly underdressed in the consistent maritime wind, thinking that was me once, that was a different me, I can see the ghost of me floating through the floor, those quiet revolutions, on repeat. Or was it everytime a different me? That was the one time it was ever the same me, and I left it there. Or something like that, melancholia, whatever. No one ever thinks, imagine dancing there now. Imagine that moment where you just say, let’s go back to mine. And being there not even talking when you know the whole thing is still going on, Hegel Hegel Hegel, the music melting through you. Just lying there, our heads touching. How can this be love? This is love that’s a small ontological simplicity. Like knowing there’s music playing. And around that, is all of us. I’m sitting by the motorway, on the balcony. I’m sitting watching the motorway moan. And how it snakes off violently, forever. As if Ulysses comes stuttering back, shirt off, on his scooter. Imagine, his chest armored with hair, him smelling of brandy, wearing those tight red shorts and speedo swimming pool sandals. Hey baby I love you. Hegel Hegel Hegel. Writing about love is the most selfish thing in the world. This heat here is unbearable. 42 degrees. Too hot even for the Akropolis. I wonder am I writing love; am I literally trying to write love, is writing violent? The motorway right to the mouth of the river. Ulysses wearing aftershave.

love letter

In the circle where we sit I look at you. We never catch eyes, but I study the edge of your cheeks, the relationship between your eyes and their freckles, the abyss of your shirt collar. I think of nothing in this moment, but elsewhere around me there are sculptors in their studios carving statues for money, hammering on in the Classical tradition. It’s ok though, right, my grandmother had one. Right by the carpet by the electric fireplace. We played lego. We often talk about sex. And I wonder: is it possible to have sex without penetration? Can we have sex without actually having sex? Is it socially acceptable for us to surround each other, it imbue each other, to add colour to each other, but that be all. Guilt for loving you. My guilt reflex for loving. My father depends on my mother. And I remember how empowered I felt when I told someone that my father can’t actually write, and they didn’t really understand it, and I only just in that moment realized. He can’t actually write, like when you write the alphabet. Thank god for computers. And typewritists. Together we talk about sex. So anyway, I was thinking last night, although this might just have been my standing on an Athenian beach in 30+ degree heat: I might have an idea of a contribution for my Embodiment day. So, it would be very low-key, and might probably just consist of an announcement at the beginning. The announcement would be: “This will not be in any way enforced, and I won’t ever remind you or check up on this at any point again, but I’d like to encourage that we kiss each other on the lips as a convivial greeting, or a goodbye. Or at least, I’m just wondering if we could accept it as socially ok amongst each other, between us as friends, and maybe not see it as wrong or weird, and therefore ok if people do it. Depends on what you feel comfortable with. Maybe it will seem the right thing to do at the end of the day, maybe totally the opposite. I’m not sure, but I’ve just been thinking recently, imagine if everyone did it, and it was just normal.” Ok end of announcement, and we all just move on, but the thought’s there, and the intervention’s been made, I think. Do you think that will make people feel really uncomfortable? Or excited? Maybe both. Why? This is just want one of those things that I totally don’t understand, and that makes me curious to think more about it. Maybe it’s just something we’ll start doing in Anafi. When no one even realises it is the best bit. We say hello to each other and kiss, because that’s what I would have wanted to happen anyway. There’s this recurring fantasy of mine: the city, surrounding us, embalming us, rearranging itself around us. When you’re stood in the middle of the road and your phone goes off, and you don’t even have to answer it to know. Us hanging out at Centre Point, knowing we’re on top of each other. They make high-rises becuase they know this, they sit on top of the city and surround it. We serve them canapés. But really it’s us that surrounds them. They can’t leave their penthouse, because it no longer exists, and all around them capital is collapsing, and people are demonstrating, cheering, hating capital. And that moment is when it happens, capital’s collapsing and we don’t even know what is is, we’re in the eye of it all, fucking. Recurring fantasy: my saying I love you. You say nothing but you know.

love letter

Acknowledging the patriarchy. Ok so we know. Ok let’s talk about the male hegemony over the world. Don’t chastise me for writing about this, the point is we’re invisible and should be everywhere, right. We take responsibility for what we do. And how to address this if we’re scared. Talking to a Quebecois about this on a Greek path, hazy Ouzo reality, smash the patriarchy. Us two males walking down a Greek path talking about the patriarchy, drunk. The internal irony. Smash the patriarchy. Future action now. Walking down the path and getting to the bottom, obviously. And there I had love, and couldn’t even talk about it. We’re in control of our own abstract power dynamics, and guess what they’re not abstract. And maybe we’re not male at all, we’re just told we are by the other males, all fragments of the big abiding male. We wish we were. And then all the males have sex. Who would you want to have in the room right now to talk about this? Who would you like to confront? I read the Metahaven book today, and antagonism is at the heart of us and them. Antagonism is at the heart of difference. The patriarchy wants flatness, because flatness is what they’re used to: twitter, facebook, the internet: flatness. The horizontal is a hierarchy. Organic foods for everyone, right. The dude abides. Nowhere else but Greece, and the gays with all their chests out, and my lazy, wandering eyes. Eye fucking because you couldn’t do it in the industrial era. My latent suppressed homosexuality. The party at the top of the hill tonight. Capitalism reduced to just describing things. Crisis. I wish you were here. I wish you were here and you are. Sleeping next to you, occassionally kissing you, wishing I could speak more to you. It’s really absurd, us sleeping together and I’ve been reading Ulysses recently and all I had in my head in the morning was Blaze-boiling Blazes Boylan, looping and repeating. And as that recurred, I got ever more dehydrated, dirty, dry. Language spinning around us, and all these letters just to tell you that we slept together. The point is that I can’t speak to you directly. Our world is a catalogue of window frames, it’s you outside mine. The point is that we built the frame together. Lol imagine love poems in 2020. I want to fly with you on Concorde. I think this was originally a group discussion, but I’m not sure how to initiate things here, apart from in secret ways, hands touching in the sand. Instead let’s paint each other’s bodies, and be together in the future. It’s exhausting here; I’ll sleep with you.

love letter

Alex Ross’s Eltham Open opens tomorrow at Gerald Moore Gallery, all the way past Brockley. It’s open for one day, and it features Julia Tcharfas, Samara Scott et al designing mini golf holes. These are then played by the viewer/participant. All this is part of their Summer School, which is art and education in August. I write about this because I couldn’t avoid it on facebook. Obviouly I’ve come to Greece to get away from it all – pure escapism – but still. I can’t help but want to keep up. A friend’s event, attended by friends, being advertised by yet more friends. Hashtag fomo. I guess i would have gone if I could. I think these letters are the place to say the most suppressed, most obvious things. Him sitting there in his leather jacket, amazing. I never did send him my dissertation. He never emailed me. But the Eltham Open is interesting in its own way. Allan Kaprow, the father of the Happening,described in 1958 the Participatory Event as, ”A game, an adventure, a number of activities engaged in by participants for the sake of playing.” The Eltham Open, when taken in these terms, is undoubtedly a Happening. It is openly and ephemerally Participantary Art, long after it ceased to be cool. It is perfectly, quirkily, Hayward: if this was once art on the ‘outside’, it is now, quite unabashadly, the suburbs, replete with its own cafe. Yet if the original Happenings developed in historicity with ’60s Participantory Politics, and in opposition to what we later recognise as ‘Spectacle’, Alex’s evolution of it seems complicit with a more insiduous and lurid reality. My point being: how can we read Kaprow’s words as anything but the mechanics and metrics of gamification? The ’60s seem so quaint and beatnik-ish today, all their anger so misdirected and irrelevant. There’s no longer such thing as the Society of the Spectacle. But instead there’s something much worse, something more everpresent and pernicious. Maybe we call it the Society of the Social, maybe we even give it capital letters. It’s no longer the image that’s the breeding ground of capital, but the way we share, interact with, and even befriend these images. It’s the process of interaction itself. The thing that happens when we have internet in the town square by the school by where they filmed the man playing bagpipes is find each other on facebook. I tell everyone I hate facebook, still around us we’re on facebook. And right now I’m telling my friends about it. Game over. Gamify insurrection. Cycling by the river, not even allowed to cross the footbridge, winning the game of rock/paper/scissors. I was taking part in a cycling protest, and wasn’t allowed to cross north of the river, even on my own, and I lied about it and they made me play rock/paper/scissors so I could go home to my home in Manor House which conveniently I didn’t have any documentation proving anything about, and I won. And then so frustrated for a week, drinking alcohol and talking about it, hating it, and then of course now writing these love letters. Vincent said a really good thing: the spectacle made relational. Of course Alex knows this, and this is the secret beauty of it all. How can we escape this double bind? Hard to say, but not by not playing it. And in a facebook that’s breaking down, post by post and image by image collapsing in on itself, its ubiquity, I can’t even access how the event was shared.

love letter

I’m so privileged because I know most people won’t even look at these, they really won’t care, that’s the point of calling them love letters. This one’s purely for you, everyone else can stop reading now: stop reading. Imagine writing letters for other emotions. Distrust letter: I fundamentally distrust you, just like I distrust alt-lit. Ultimately, everyone else will be repulsed by love letters. Maybe that’s part of it too – it’s total rejection otherwise. Chris Kraus loves dick? Everyone on this island is naked, Angelo says. Everyone here should be naked. On the nudist beach. Nudism implies considered rejection of civilisation. It is one of the clearest forms of body-as-context. You wear no clothes because you know that surrounding you are laws that, were they written, would be 9000 years old, maybe more. It is the ability to disconnect that shows we are connected. And so the Greek man who walks down the beach nude and goes for a swim carries every Hewlett-Packard processor in every provincial business park across the world. It is society that surrounds him, that makes him fully clothed. Our body is a network of occurences; the boat we arrived on, the tent we sleep in, the plane that connects me to you: all this is part of our body. And so I glow when you touch me. Imagine Gilles Deleuze sitting here, making African pyres on the beach. Around him, all of us, is a primitivist ceremony. Afterwards we go the taverna for dinner. Their ashes, that’s where I hide you. In their shadow, we’ll connect each other, because that’s what we’re told to do. When we fuck each other, that’s when we know we have bodies. Our body is a network of occurrences. Can we change it? Are we trapped? What are we trapped in? The present order was founded on desire. Desire is the death moment, is where we die. I think I decided to write love letters because of their some spatio-temporal peculiarity. As in, these are desires trapped in a peculiar and small fold; disconnected and fully, eternally, nonlinear. They are memories that I blemish in recording them, send outwards, anywhere, and disown. At the same time you pick them up, at whatever small juncture of your life, and they have material impact on you, on your life. You might even see imminently after, but I’ll have disowned them, attempting to impose linearity on the context that surrounds me called normal. We’ll know therefore that it’s a missed connection, a small slippage, but also a shared territory. Does that make them any less or more real? They’re still a shared territory, a more beautifully latent slippage.  Being on holiday feels like this, storing up possible returns, future ignition to any number of the looping and multilinear contexts with which we clothe ourselves. And after all this, anyway, I’m still sat on the nudist beach, wondering how to have sex, wanting to swim round the corner and have sex on the secret beach there, like an otter glistening in the sand, wanting to talk about sex and have sex by just talking. Foucault said something like this, we should always analyse our present moment, because these are the invisible power structures that create us. He also said that recognition of power is just as significant a development as the recognition of slavery, but it might take just as long to understand and abolish. His students trailing him as he walked into the sex shop. My falling asleep straight away, my secret wholeness, my embarrassment, our perfection. Imagine seeing each other and not even talking about this.