Vít Havránek: Does a beginning exist?
Boris Ondreička: Does it, or did it? An infinite number of constant beginnings? Euphorias and dysphorias? Or just the one, that Big Bang, or whatever? I decline to comment on either the end of the universe, or its beginning.
VH: Does death exist?
BO: Biological death occurs, the death of life forms. Dying persists (a coma is not yet death; cogito ergo sum is an inaccurate thesis), but death does not exist. It is a moment: to exist versus to exist. Bodies have a variable endurance. That variability is dependent on ‘given’ parameters and ‘care’ (both physical and psychological), or it is violently terminated (consciously or accidentally, by one’s own hand or someone else’s). Then we decay. That decay is not death; decay only comes after death. The body is water and rock is water… Water is the most critical of liquids. Worms, insects and flowers will blissfully draw strength from my waters…
VH: Does the universe exist, and where does it end?
BO: Faith is the pre-colonization of the space of the unknown. Believers think they know something more than we atheists. To think I know more than someone else doesn’t necessarily mean anything, apart from arrogance or anxiety. I am not just non-religiously inclined, I am anti-religiously inclined. That doesn’t stop me from making friends with believers. I refuse answers from beyond the bounds of the known. I refuse answers about the end of the universe. That which we call the universe visibly exists and I look at it above and below, on the surface of a lake at night, together with my face, through which (below which) fish swim. I stick my index fingerinitscenter,intothecenterof that face; it deforms for a moment in that interference and I consider the varied prominence of the stars, which comes not from distance or size, but from radiance. The smallest, most distant appears closest and biggest because of that. And actually it is not a star, but the moon, a body illuminated by another that is hidden. And it is not even the moon, but cloud that brings the light of the moon, which is also hidden by another body. It is a light twice reflected. Light has a source, dark has no source. There is one black, one white and a million grays. I also think similarly about sound and the other senses. ‘Tone’ is a quality that we judge in image and in sound, in speech, in meaning…
VH: Does life exist beyond our planet?
BO: I think it does, simply from a certain consideration of probability. Whether it does or not, I don’t consider it in this case to be important for my life. I can’t control even my own, because there are many things I don’t hear, not because they are quiet, but precisely because my own internal voice is too loud.
VH: Where does the ‘self’ begin?
BO: I don’t know which one you mean. Asking about a single self is like asking about one color of skin. The self begins in the mother’s belly as 50% mother and 50% father and later the influence of third parties. Sensorimotor orientation is analogous to ethic orientation. Small children are not yet capable of processing polysemies. The family basis only constitutes given conditions, though, which later change under the influence of third parties. The influence of third parties on the family grounding may be predominant. Even the body itself will change under the influence of third parties.
VH: What is the body composed of?
BO: From fluids that circulate thanksto the organs, which mostly pump away in the dark, and, therefore, of the dark that is in between them. The organ – the pipe organ and the prelude, and the organ and totality. And the verbal and non-verbal sounds of these fluidsandorgans. Ihavenothingother than my body – these fluidsthatchangeto joy and a good sleep, which serve those insects and flowersafter my death.
VH: Are genes programmed?
BO: My daughter Olívia loves it when we talk about percentages of her body in relation to the nationalities of our antecedents. For example, she is roughly 12.5% Ukrainian. Yes, it probably is the case that genes are programmed. What I wonder about is whether, alongside information about hereditary diseases, they also contain a charge of what is sometimes called hereditary sin. I wonder whether there is a gene charged with the enthusiasm of a boy for intercourse and a girl’s fear of the same intercourse, whether I am a child of enthusiasm and fear…
VH: Does knowledge bring happiness?
BO: The Kohelet [Ecclesiastes] of the Maskir of Solomon resolutely claims that it does not. We want knowledge to bring happiness. Sometimes it cannot. There is ‘negative’ and ‘negative’; if you don’t know ‘what’, then you know nothing. Knowledge is unethical, unaesthetic, polysemic and multipolar. The extreme of its polarities is insanity. That can originate in excess. Knowledge, therefore, like consumption, must be subjugated to a certain order and moderation. Talking about happiness brings us back to the sensations and fluids of our bodies: a happy individualis one who can provide food, so he is attractive, so he sleeps happily from food, drink and orgasm (fulfilled and evacuated).Our [Slovak] language does not distinguish between ‘luck’ and ‘happiness’…
VH: What does self-control and self-censorship bring to you when writing?
BO: Rhythm, timing, metrics, consistency, communicativeness, security and internal criticism. I am not an autistic type of artist. My space lies somewhere between the private and the public, in that wall, in the glass of that window. I dedicate as much time to what I say as I do to how you hear it and I often get lost there in between, or I get ‘walled in’. I need a rite (= a stereotype) to be able to get back to the safety of the dichotomic normativeness of ordinary life from the multipolar normality of the world of poetry. Writing is radically different than thinking. Writing is critical. My texts are not introspective; I use myself as an example. My texts are dedicated to the surrounding world.
VH: What is freedom?
BO: Freedom is simply an empty vessel. As soon as I fillit with something, it loses its meaning. When it is not filled,i tself-destructs. That’s how it always goes. Freedom is merely a prefix–it is always freedom ‘of something’. Freedom essentially does not exist. Essentiality is per se a nonsense. Freedom is only a quality of a subject and not the subject itself (not ‘what’, but ‘how’). Freedom, therefore, is always bound. The world is composed more of attributes than of subjects or objects; there are a few meaningful things, but millions of ways.
VH: What is Man’s motivation to live?
BO: If we are to query the meaning of life, we must first talk about instincts and their cultural obstructions and superstructures: hunger, thirst / taste, reproduction / orgasm, sociability / friendship, movement and rest / entertainment… If we are to talk about instincts, we must remember that directly satisfying many of them is banned by our culture (for collective protection), for example by prohibiting the acquisition of food by stealing from weaker individuals. The motivation of life is the fulfillment of sophisticated superstructures and their servicing and the servicing of their consequences (sex, child, mortgage…). The pleasurable superstructure motivates fulfillment of the instincts.Theobstructive superstructure can destroy that fulfillment. Many superstructures attempt to conceal their own basis. The superstructure, that is, means ‘extra’ work: hypertrophy, hypertrophy, friendship and love, cultural additives that smoothly substitute the instincts, which, however, are not lost; they are only blocked and oscillate compulsively from the sidelines… This discourse is extremely decadent in places that are struggling for bare existence (war, poverty, fatal disease…).
VH: What is inter-subjectivity, an archipelago?
BO: Inter-subjectivity is an in-between space, a space of contact, of exchange of subjectivities, correspondence of senses, confrontation. I write about the fact that from the demand for boundless freedom, we are living in a delta. There is no river, it has lost its banks, the water has floodedthe spring and cartography is dead. We live on islands (isola, isolation) in that delta, each alone. We shout at each other across the turbulent torrents of the water. We build bridges, tunnels, construct vessels and aircraft, we define archipelagos of empathy, because alone we would not survive the periods of hibernation.
VH: What is ‘outimacy’?
BO: ‘Outimacy’ is the projection of intimacy in an ‘outward direction’. ‘Extimacy’ would already be positioned outside. Outimacy is the private in the context of the public, like standing on one’s own balcony naked, hearing, through the wall, your neighbor boiling water on his stove, hearing the temperature of the water, hearing temperature. Outimacy is the conflictbetweenmine and our (yours), my coming to terms with the social functioning of intimacy. It’s like when you can’t pass someone who is walking slowly in front of you in the center of the sidewalk: where is the difference here between absentmindedness and egotism?
VH: If you had to sort the collection of biggest library in the world, how would you do it?
BO: I read very slowly (and therefore very little), because every page has fivereferences to other books (which I haven’t read) and that leads me to writing five more comments. Paper books (I’m not fascinated by paper books) are becoming relics. The existing ones will be scanned. The storage spaces for paper books will no longer grow, forests will no longer be cut down for paper. That is a perfect ecological vision. I am still fascinated by the (now banal) function of the digital encyclopedia, which allows you to click on a word, a citation, an expression or term… That’s how I imagine the library of the future: maximum accessibility, anywhere, everything hyperlinked, focused on meta-language (polysemic categorization – something like “What are you thinking about? About this, this or this?” Link, link, link.), investment into translations (even the fascinating Colombian poetry of the Nadaismo movement has not been translated into English) and not print and transport. And the mega-library building will be something like a resort, a campus (for example back in the middle of the Sahara), for those who have a real reason for dealing with the physical mass of old books.
VH: If you were chairman of the UN, what would you do?
BO: I would try to make the UN consensually superordinate to all states on the basis of minority democracy. I would try to get rid of religions and later of borders, of all the states – but not of ethnic groups, not minorities. I would support diversity. Since the waters of the seas can be international, since, for example, Italy can have a relatively functional parliament, then why couldn’t the whole world have a common one? There would be no passports, visas, foreign or even interior ministries…
VH: If you were to write your autobiography, what would it be?
BO: A record of what I was and what I am from my point of view, as opposed to a record of what I was and what I am from the perspective of others, like Scheissliche Ostblocker. Here we have the ‘self’ again…
VH: If you had to select or establish an order in which to live, what would you do?
BO: I would establish the Interdisciplinary Order of the Body. Due to success in fulfilling the demand for scope and mobility, the demand for accessibility (of information…) and the profusion of skills, the disciplines become narrowly specialized. The space is so massive and dense that not only do the disciplines not communicate with each other, but they don’t even respect each other (medicine and psychology…). In this way the service of our bodies (including obviously the brain) has to rely on the performance of a number of egocentrically divided disciplines. The body will be the center of our future interest. The core activity of my order would be communication between the disciplines, which directly relates to the service of our bodies – so meticulous concentration on translation. The fundamental instrument of communication would be the metaphor.
VH: If you were to ask any questions, what would they be?
BO: How does one reconcile questions of normality with answers of normativeness? How does one reconcile pampered theory with corrupt practice? How does one convert the inner voice into an outer voice? How can one finance a family from poetic isolation?
VH: If you were to arrange the folders in my computer, how would you do it?
BO: I would view theses, themes, terms and words simply as the basis of a meta-language. I would cross-link these metalanguage units and the files would arrange themselves. The main component of the desktop would be a central browser. Then you would only have to remember excerpts… The whole system would be online unilaterally (protected from outside in). It would refer you to existing analogies and be linked to the mega-library. When you allowed the mega-library access to your writing, the whole world would know that you were working on ‘this’ and your attention would be directed to other, analogous things… Such systems obviously already exist.
VH: If you were responsible for a message to an extraterrestrial civilization and the graphic design of the message, how would you do it?
BO: I wouldn’t attempt that.
BORIS ONDREIČKA, Private-Public, reading-performance at Unpredictability and Speculations – Lopud Academy, Lopud, Croatia, 2012; video-still courtesy of TBA21 Black Birds & Blackbirds (version 1). Right: reading-performance (and text-poster) at Call the Witness – Roma Pavilion at the 52nd Venice Biennale, 2011, photo courtesy of Victor Nieuwenhuys for BAK Utrecht.
Entoptic & Tacit at Unrest of Form at Wiener Secession 2013, weekly reading-performances and projection, photo: courtesy of Oliver Ottenschlaeger for Wiener Secession.
BORIS ONDREIČKA, Scheissliche Ostblocker, 2000, text-mural for Now What? at BAK Utrecht, 2003, photo courtesy of Ernst Moritz for BAK Utrecht, TBA21 collection.
Theoretical Performance #73, part of Eustachian Tube, 2013, for Athens Biennale 4, Agora, projection and reading-performance, video-still, courtesy of the artist.