“Theatre is Fake by Shia LaBeouf” by Trace William Cowen

Editor Carrie Ivy, Editor's Choice, February 16th, 2014

We can't safely indulge the naivety of modernism anymore...

Theatre is Fake by Shia LaBeouf by Trace William Cowen by Seth Abramson

I think that, as an emerging cultural paradigm, metamodernism speaks to how many in my generation and the generation following mine feel in the Internet Age. I sense, in the digital stream of social media, a common feeling arising in certain pockets that a new data-processing praxis is needed. We can’t safely indulge the naivety of modernism anymore, but neither can our psyches bear much more deconstruction of principles that are ineluctable to our happiness.  I’d burned out on the conventional lyric-narrative after five years of workshopping, and had even written a piece arguing for the abolition of the workshop pedagogy as such. Theatre is fake…the knife is not real, the blood is not real, and the emotions are not real; but Performance is just the opposite: the knife is real, the blood is real, and the emotions are real.

I saw a lot of conventional lyric-narrative writing that had been expertly fucked around with to provoke the sensation of novelty.  I was introduced to it by a poet friend, Jesse Damiani. The point is that if you make art elite, then you kill it.  And it doesn’t help that many scions of the avant-garde are more interested, as I suppose nearly any human would be, in protecting their own hard-won legacy than making way for a paradigm shift they’ve had little to do with directly. In American culture, you’re so scared of dying. The author may be dead, but he still has to write; language may be riddled with incapacities, but it’s still the engine of the world.

Metamodernism, particularly in verse, offers us praxes that use oscillation between polar spectra we all experience–sincerity and irony, knowledge and ignorance, reality and unreality–to the daily benefit of the psyche. Metamodernism retakes the reins and reframes uncertainty as sublimity, inconstancy as humane, oscillation as honorable.

I was told once that I love to rile people up, but the reality is that I love to rile myself up about things that matter to me, and then like anyone hope for fellow-travelers or good-natured sparring partners rather than entrenched naysaying. I am plenty lonely in hotel rooms. They’re exploratory and perpetual. A lot of the work, I should say, was quite good. The question was whether it had that quality of newness that arrests mental exhaustion. I also worried that too much of what happens off the page was making its way into others’ reception of the work.

shia labeouf trace william cowen nailed magazine

Metamodernism offered me a way to process my growing feeling that we lose a sense of our own and others’ humanity when we go online. And that the aging process fractures our sense of self every bit as much as postmodern literary theory does. The first minute I felt the emotions of the other person being projectected on me, but after a while, the emotions came purely out of the person’s self, and they were real and personal. Ironically, it’s when we’re online, in spaces that disallow intonation and body language and the real-time give-and-take that means everything to our basic humanity, that what we think we know about people becomes a hardened obstacle to empathy and discourse:

When you write a word in a place you ought not write it, and when you write to someone you ought not write to.

When you permit yourself to be mindful that life is context every bit as much as all language is context.

When you change the terms of a discussion permanently by changing its language.

When you exhibit, in any fora or through any media, a passion for honest communication.

We were sitting in a movie theater lounge and talking about how both of us were burned out on poetry. I was burned out because I’d reviewed a hundred poetry collections in eighteen months.

All in all it makes me feel like the basic human data of my own life is being deconstructed, misinterpreted, or misdirected into nothingness.

He had his own reasons.

The problem, though of course it’s not a problem so much as an unalterable condition of the landscape, is that poets come to poetry for their own perfectly valid individual reasons. Certain leading avant-gardists are calling their borrowing of visual arts techniques from the 1960s ground-breaking and then pretending that visual arts techniques that appeared in early 2014 multimedia exhibits in New York City don’t exist at all. It’s not like poets to shy away from paradigm shifts, given that the renewed presence of poetry in workaday American life is itself a paradigm shift, so all in all it’s disappointing. So much technically sound poetry is being written and published and read right now that it’s easy to sidestep the question of whether any of it could permanently shift our present cultural paradigm.

Along with modernism and postmodernism, metamodernism completes a conceptual triumvirate that for many decades has felt unfinished. “Metamodernism” is already at the annual MLA conference, in academic journals across the world, in the salons of Berlin and London and Paris, in the movies and television and comedy and novels and architecture and painting we consume here in the States, but you can’t get the most influential avant-gardists to even whisper it into their sleeve. It’s baffling!

I discovered metamodernism in the midst of a personal crisis. And I think it offers new hope to at least two generations of Americans lost in the wilds of the Internet:

When that realization drives you to the sort of empathy that lasts…

[The text of this essay was written by Seth Abramson; it was then reconfigured, curated, and augmented (with five sentences from additional sources) by Trace William Cowen. Shia LaBeouf did not participate in the production of this text.]

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trace william cowen nailed magazine Trace William Cowen is an artist, writer, and self-proclaimed “student of pop culture” hailing from the buckle of the bible belt – Alabama. The irony of his staunch atheism is duly noted. Find his official website here, and his twitter here.

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Carrie Ivy

Carrie Ivy (formerly Carrie Seitzinger) is Editor-in-Cheif and Co-Publisher of NAILED. She is the author of the book, Fall Ill Medicine, which was named a 2013 Finalist for the Oregon Book Award. Ivy is also Co-Publisher of Small Doggies Press.