Ask Natasha

Ask Natasha

Ask Natasha | Solipsism and (Un)Certainty

First off, let me say:


Q: How are u? — Abdur Rouf

A: It might interest you to know that I am in a recurrent phase, which, perhaps ironically, means I am tired of postmodernism and all of its iterations. I mean recurrent in the way a dream is described; I have returned to a nostalgia for melodrama and teenaged feelings. The glittering value of an icy post-post artform is clear, but its intentions troubling: such conflating has become, to me, cruel. The next step must be clarity, but how does one find that, knowing all that is known? Like Lynn Tillman’s circling notes in American Genius, A Comedy (2006), I am thinking about the dinginess of memory—

“Our family cat, who was the uxorious companion my father wasn’t, regularly followed my mother into the bathroom and watched her apply her red lipstick. The cat once stayed behind after my mother, who had neglected to close the lipstick tube, left it on the sink, and later the cat emerged, her lips and mouth as red as my mother’s, and it was this cat my mother and father abandoned to a shelter, to be killed, and it may have been then my brother abandoned us, I’m not sure, since coincidence plays a role in memory, contorts it or condenses events, mostly in the rememberer’s favor, a memory has the subject’s limits, and we forget much more than we remember, with little to no control over it, though its insistence at having happened determined our fates, that is, how we speak about the past and consequently live in the present, but he did run away around then, I’m pretty sure, for which my father condemned him, since my brother might have saved the business.”

It becomes about self-centeredness, which is unattractive, but the only landing place left. I am aware—too aware—of the impressionistic tone of my own life, and I am morbidly satisfied by this awareness. In manic-depressives, one finds the person most hated in a lifetime and the person of that depressive’s fantasies, all in that same self.

Like Samuel Cramer, the hero of Baudelaire’s La Fanfarlo (1847), I am “simpler than a scholar,” and yet have noticed the burden of the public and taken responsibility for any worthy distraction from that burden. “One of Samuel’s most natural failings was to deem himself the equal of those he could admire; after an impassioned reading of a beautiful book, his unwitting conclusion was: now that is beautiful enough for me to have written! — and, in only the space of a dash, from there to think: therefore, I wrote it.”

A writer can never know her audience, nor a reader her book’s author. Have you, Abdur, or have you, any of you, met your idol(s)? It is at once the most exhilarating and dulling experience of one’s career. This idol is less than what you had imagined because they are human, but more than what you had hoped for the same reason. And the way we remember and record these occasions… these accomplishments or regrets, is the way the experience will live on, beyond either of the experiencers. Can you know me through my writing, and can I know you through your asking me to write? Is this a more intimate knowledge of a person than the alternative forms of meeting? Will I ever meet you, and therefore have a way of weighing out the differences between how I have imagined the meeting will go, how it would go if we were to meet, really, and how it went, since we met (have we met?)?

In David Foster Wallace’s essay, “Certainly the End of Something or Other, One would Sort of Have to Think (Re John Updike’s Toward the End of Time),” he notes that “when a solipsist dies… everything goes with him.” And my question: What happens when all the solipsists are gone? Or: What happens when no one is focused enough on their own mind to discover it, since it is no longer in fashion to be so singularly focused? As Baudelaire said in 1847, a character like Samuel Cramer “is more widespread than we think… They identify with the new pattern so well that they almost believe they invented it.”

If this kind of concentrated self-aggrandizing was popular then, what are we now? Has this stain become only less and less soluble? Has it metamorphosized so many times, gathering more impertinence with each emergence, creating, finally, “the Great Mail Narcissists” (GMNs –c/o DFW) of the 1970s, and every new form of popular laziness thereafter? Of course not. Our capacities to piously love and to be loved… to love ourselves first in order to let love in… to love ceaselessly, selflessly… etc, all depends on trend. Each version of vapidity is at one point reviled and at another, celebrated. See, for example, the waxing on about the reviled Updike by the celebrated Foster Wallace. (And by the way, I’ll hold back, for the sake of whatever clarity remains of this fogged-over mirror I’m holding up for you, from drawing similarities between the below tangent and Baudelaire’s on the Romantic writer Walter Scott in the aforementioned novella).

“John Updike… has for decades been constructing protagonists… who are all clearly stand-ins for Updike himself. They always live in either Pennsylvania or New England, are either unhappily married or divorced, are roughly Updike’s age. Always either the narrator or the point-of-view character, they tend all to have the author’s astounding perceptual gifts; they think and speak in the same effortlessly lush, synesthetic way Updike does. They are also incorrigibly narcissistic, philandering, self-contemptuous, self-pitying… and deeply alone, alone the way only an emotional solipsist can be alone… and, though they are heterosexual to the point of satyriasis, they especially don’t love women. (Unless, of course, you consider delivering long encomiums to a woman’s “sacred several-lipped gateway” or saying things like “…the sight of her plump lips obediently distended around my swollen member, her eyelids lowered demurely, afflicts me with a religious peace” to be the same as loving her.)”

How am I? I’m only as well as my generation’s decided emotional barriers can allow me to be, which is, I think, falling somewhere between the ruthlessness of Romanticism and the self-importance of the MTV generation. But I’m really not that cynical. I am, like I said, only nostalgic for the melodramatic.

Recent Posts


In the Flesh Part l: Subliminal Substances features artists whose work utilizes inorganic ingestible elements found in food, medicines, cosmetics and technological devices. Some of these consumable and non-consumable products emit chemicals and radioactivity that our bodies absorb through the skin. Inorganic ingestibles include, but are not limited to, GMOs, pathogens, hormones, pesticides, steroids, preservatives, radiation and plastics. Such substances seep into our bodies more and more consistently, while the term “organic” is applied liberally… [read more »]

Glaze | Earthly

“Glaze describes the often shiny, wear-protective layer of oxide formed when two metals (or a metal and ceramic) are slid against each other at high temperature in an oxygen-containing atmosphere.” So says North Carolina electronics duo Earthly regarding the literal definition of “Glaze,” a track from their debut LP, Days. Released this summer via the Noumenal Loom, the album scrambles iridescent textures and wobbly rhythms through various states of flux. Eno Swinnen conceived the video… [read more »]

I Would Prefer Not to Include My Name | Eva and Franco Mattes

The task of a content moderator is to decide what content on an online platform is permitted to stay and what should be removed. Sometimes the guidelines are clear, e.g. remove all images of Al Qaeda, while other times it’s a question of subjective judgement whether or not the content is inappropriate. Eva and Franco Mattes are the artists behind the exhibition I Would Prefer Not to Include My Name, part of a larger project… [read more »]

Premiere | “Pump Fake” by vyle

A reference to Michael Jordan’s famous technique and also a synonym for indecision, this collaboration with producers Shy Guy and Thomas Welch, entitled “Pump Fake”, is vyle’s take on “what a rapper is” vs. “what a rapper is expected to be”, enveloped in postmodern slang and rap-centric jewels. “Pump Fake” is the first single from vyle’s upcoming experiential album, “A Ü T O/M Ö T O R”. Both words from the title refer to a car.… [read more »]

Mommy | Maggie Lee

July 20, 2012 — Maggie Lee tagged you in a photo. I remember receiving the notification on Facebook. I was on my way to see The Dark Knight Rises—it was it’s opening day—but the photo brought me back to the night before. Maggie’s caption above the photo on my timeline read: “finger snap, half man half woman, steven king or ann rice?, 2 step (in the back), simple times, park angel thong reptilian skirt, ghost… [read more »]

Arachne | Dorothy Howard

Inspired by the myth of Arachne, Dorothy Howard‘s recently launched eponymous webzine co-designed with André Fincanto explores the analogy of the internet network with a spider’s web (one that Dorothy Howard mentions started at the beginning of the internet when Tim Berners-Lee set the name “the world wide web” in 1989; he later wrote ‘Weaving the Web‘). Arachne explores various comparisons and intersections between mythology and the internet. I chatted with Dorothy about digital labour,… [read more »]

No Need to Hunt | We Just Wait for the Roadkill

Alexander Endrullat, Burkhard Beschow, Camilla Steinum, Dorota Gaweda & Eglé Kulbokaité, Jake Kent, Kai Hügel, Michele Gabriele Curated by: Paul Barsch It was not meant as a statement. Not at all. They just took it, mixed it, altered and extended it. They did not even care. Artifacts. Cultural objects. De facto found footage. Natural materials. … No hierarchy but full potential. Total opennesssssssss Ssssssssssssssssssss ssssssssssss ssssss A thrilling, raspy scream that sounds exactly like a… [read more »]

abduct | Xavier Cha

As a part of the commission programme for Frieze Film 2015 which will be screened at Frieze London and air on BBC’s national Channel 4, Xavier Cha presents abduct, a cinematic study of performative self-estrangement in the virtual age. Xavier Cha’s conceptually-driven practice spans dance, video, text and audio, but central to her work is the expanded field of performance. Since graduating from UCLA in 2004, she has shown live and video work across the… [read more »]

ZHALA: Religious Rave and Cosmic Pop for MOMENTUM 8

“I try to create a space in which I can dress like Kim Kardashian and she can dress like me.” Zhala is a conceptual musician, artist and performer of Kurdish descent, born and raised in Stockholm, Sweden. She is one of the founding members of the LGBT club Donna Scam in Stockholm, and the first and so far the only artist signing to Robyn’s Konichiwa Records. Zhala’s music consists of haunting rhythms and evocative melodies… [read more »]

Frieze Live | Passive Aggressive #3

The British artist duo Edward Thomasson & Lucy Beech reveal the violence of everyday performativity with their last installment of the non-theatrical 3-part series Passive Aggressive. The piece accentuates how this performativity is not just a gendered diagnostic of the contemporary Corporate Female navigating her way through the aggression of the work-place, but a constructive mode of life. At 2:45 PM daily during the fair in Regent’s Park, a group of six women in professional… [read more »]