Roger Farr / Hic Rhodus. Hic Salta.
As some will recognize, hic rhodus. hic salta is a Latin phrase taken up by both Hegel and Marx. The phrase is used in reference to discussion of the revolutionary moment: the end of history, also the end of progress.
I’m borrowing the phrase from a beautiful postscript to Roger Farr’s newest book of poems Means. “Hic rhodus. Hic salta” is the title of one of Farr’s poetic sequences in the text, and it becomes the focus of his “Postscript.”
Farr tells us that hic rhodus. hic salta is the punch-line to a Latin fable about an athlete who boasts about winning of a jumping competition (presumably) in Rhodes. A bystander takes the athelete’s boast, and says something along the lines of if you’re so good show us: “here the rod, now jump.” Alternative, “Here is Rhodes, now jump.”
Hic rhodus. Hic Salta. As Farr points, out this phrase is also at the heart of Marx’s thinking about the revolutionary “end of history.” It is idea Marx borrows from Hegel to describe “that point in history where the proletariat is compelled to leap” (83).
What is remarkable for Farr, and many others, is that this moment has not been seized: “The problem, however, is that the logic of necessity ticking away inside this utterance—a logic captured syntactically in form of the conditional sentence “(‘If the conditions are correct, then the people will revolt’)—is either inherently flawed, or has been hijacked by some other spook, perhaps that other, better known maxim, cogita ante salis” (look before you leap) (83).
Farr’s essay goes on to discuss a systematic evacuation of political agency, which he connects with that moment forewarned in the work of Debord or Camatte, when “capital reaches a stage where it emancipates itself from human agency… a ‘mechanistic utopia’ where human beings become simple accessories of an automated system’” (84). Dark days indeed. Farr writes that “communication, like the economy it animates, also becomes something alien and autonomous, an abstract force—a ghost, a virus, a code—that harnesses ‘users’ to execute its commands” (86).
We are back at Chun’s notion of sourcery mentioned above, the all powerful code only needs us to click on the options, to like this one or that one.
However, what is remarkable about Farr’s essay is the way it forks a popular script—about the futility of resistance—by proposing a radical poetic turn. He argues for “a documentarian poetics that acknowledges its deep entanglement with exchange by replicating that particular transaction which every capitalist seeks to avoid: the return of used, damaged, or stolen, goods (words) for full refund.” He calls this a “dis-utopian un-writing—that avoids the old traps of ‘moral commitment, beautiful soul, ideological militancy, etc.,” and favours instead a “constructive punk realism” (87).
As a poet, Farr is talking about poetry, but for our purposes I’d like to open it up a bit include all manner of creative act—visual, performative, conceptual, musical. And I’d like to end the essay portion of my program with his contention that
our task should not be “political,” anti-political. Poets are not legislators. Writing does no have to concern itself with distribution of epiphanies and sensibilities, nor with the re-programming of an imagined citizenry in time for the next Federal election. It does not need to solve the problems that capital needs solved …. doesn’t have to help anyone ‘come to terms’ with this world.”
In the end, poetry’s role and I am including all manner of creative act here is “affective: to joyfully render the present even more intolerable than it already is.” Farr goes on to say this type of creative practice should gesture “toward new forms of affinity, agency, and association” (86)
At this point, in the spirit of joyfully rendering the present even more intolerable I’d like to open to a discussion about how we and I am using the term lightly might works with and across platforms. I’m hoping that we might use the basic Reworks site (1.0) as a spring board into a variety of other things.
But that’s where I/we need you.