M. Kitchell’s innovative Loop appears in the October issue. He talks with us about narrative structures, things he has wanted but couldn’t love, pornography from the past and more.
1. How does the choppy sentence construction contribute or enhance the narrative structure of “Loop”?
The idea, partially, was based on what happens during masturbation when pornography is involved. Â At least, in my personal experience. Â When I am in the throes of lust based on .avi files and streaming amateur smut, I have a tendency to constantly switch between different videos and images, in an effort to achieve some erotic totality. Â Of course, depending on how intensely into the jerk session I am, I don’t really want to have to slow what I’m doing to switch what I’m watching/seeing, so I’ve a tendency to alt+tab quickly, there’s an urgency to my desire, because I want to see something new without losing any momentum.
Similarly, I think there’s something fragmented, yet single-minded, about lust itself. Â Lust can become sort of an obsession, and within the obsession, you can recognize that there are other things to be done, but you don’t care about them, so they’re considered quickly: the real world is fragmented into an itemized list that you have to recognize, but have no desire to linger on.
Finally, I was interested in echoing the fractured rhythm of lust (or sex) itself. Â There’s a pulsation, but it’s somewhat irregular. Â These things are not smooth; they’re very visceral, organic. Â Smooth sentence construction would have felt entirely dishonest to the subject-matter.
2. What have you wanted to love but couldn’t? Â What stopped you?
I fall in love, most often, with the dead. Â I don’t necessarily mean humans, or whatever, in the sense of a person who is no longer living, but rather, I fall in love with concepts, ideas, and events, or situations, that I can imagine myself “potentially” (I use quotes because “potentially” is probably a weird word to use) encountering. Â It’s actually how I end up writing most of what I write.
Situations are not people who can love you back. If I’m fantasizing about how it would feel to see someone who, physically, is ideal, floating in the air like a saint, nude, this idea can never move beyond the zone of fantasy, or daydream, or fictional narrative. Â I say I have a ghost fetish, and I try to pass it off as being in jest, but it’s not really. Â The immaterial lover is a pretty amazing idea to me.
Abstracted mysticism is hot.
I also fall in love with actors and characters from films made in the 70s and 80s. Â This is normal I think, I’m just more specifically rooted in a different zeitgeist than the one I exist in. Â So, ultimately, in all of these instances, reality has stopped me from loving what I’ve wanted to love.
3. What object would you like to talk back to you?
Furniture, house-plants, rocks. Â Water, which is kind of weird to describe as an “object,” hah. Â I find ritual objects particularly awesome. Â I am interested in object-oriented ontology in general– and the sort of phenomenological intersection with that; the event of encountering an object, the experience of an object.
4. What does porno made in 1983 look like? Â How is the year significant?
There are a couple of reasons for 1983. Â First, it falls immediately outside of the time-period that I’ve established as having my absolute favorite aesthetics: Â 1978-1982. Â Everything, and everyone, was beautiful during this time period. Â Design & architecture were at their most appealing, (genre) movies were at their most hermetic and esoteric, Â and a lot of literature itself was actually at its most interesting. Â By choosing 1983, I’m situating the cinematic conduit outside of that, when things were starting to look cheap, when things started falling into decline.
Similarly, by 1982 most porn was being shot on video, and by 1983 almost all of it was shot on video, with very few exceptions. Â The feature-length narrative of pornography was dead. Â The pretense of art in a widely distributed pornographic film was dead. Â Pornography had moved into the realm of poor acting, cheesy music, and back to back scenes of Â straight fuckin’. Â Since I was ostensibly appropriating a scene that actually exists (though I can’t remember what flick it’s actually from right now), I didn’t want any pre-existing narrative standing in my way.
In 1983 pornography didn’t look very good. Â Video was still in its early days, and there was poor lighting all over the place. Â Arguably, “real film makers” were against video because there’s less artifice in video; visually it’s closer to real life, and real life, generally, doesn’t look very good. Â So this hyper-presence of video also became a sort of “uncanny valley,” to borrow terms from critical theory. Â And it wasn’t happening in the regular motion picture industry. Â So suddenly pornography became simultaneously uglier and more real. Â It’s sort of a weird moment that I find interesting, and that I thought would perfectly fit the transference of place & lust that the protagonist of Â Loop suffers.
5. How has photography influenced your writing?
I got my BFA in photography, and really, the only reason for this was because I realized that photography was the best place for me, at the university I attended, to explore the kind of cross-medium stuff that I wanted to be exploring. Â All of my major projects while I was in school were basically explorations of the way narrative can move between image and text. Â When I was briefly flirting with the idea of a graduate program, I would tell people that I was “interested in the narrative space that arises between text and image.” Â This is sort of true, I guess, but it sounds a bit over-blown to me now.
But in terms of influence, I think, I spend a lot of time thinking in images. Â One of the things that found me ultimately frustrated when I started shooting a lot of photos was that I couldn’t actually shoot all of the images that were in my head, because I didn’t have the people, the locations, the props, etc. to do that. Â But it wasn’t long before I discovered that I could just write the images and not have to worry about how to pull something off as a photograph.
A lot of my work Â consists of written tableau, sometimes with vague tangents used to connect one to another. Â LOOP is a little different, as it’s more of a narrative quest, I guess (which is basically the only other thing that I write; the search, the “hunt”).
One thing that photography teaches you is how to really look at images. Â Most people think they know how to look at things, but it’s amazing how much Â more you can actually learn to see things. Â You learn to pay more attention to light and posture, reflections, color. Â I think about film grain a lot, and how grain can affect the tone a photo carries. Â I like to think about different ways that images can be obscured.
6. How does one map the topology of the impossible?
I guess I should clarify right off the bat that the genesis of my website’s name came from combining the titles of two of my favorite books: Â Â Topology of a Phantom City by Alain Robbe-Grillet, and Â The Impossible by Georges Bataille. Â However, the decision to use the phrase was a little more involved.
Topology, as a word, is really interesting to me. Â First off, most people immediately thing of “topography” when they hear it, because it’s a term used much more often in daily life. Â But the actual word has various meanings which play upon things that I’m particularly fascinated by.
First of all, in architecture topology is “a term used […] to describe spatial effects which cannot be described by topography, i.e., social, economical, spatial or phenomenological interactions.” Â The conscious experience of a space (i.e. the phenomenological interaction with space) is a primary concern of mine, and it’s also something I often try to address in anything I’m working on. Â The spatial experience of Â the impossible, which, in my appropriation of the term from Bataille is something like the precipice of experience/existence, the void, God, whatever you want to call it, would mean that you could, in one way, translate the phrase “topology of the impossible” into “describing the experience of the space of the void.”
Network topology describes the configuration of computer networks, so it’s almost as if the word can also work as a sort of technological rhizome equivalent. Â The industrialization of the void, the mechanized outline of god.
The word has a specific mathematic function as well, and one night, while drinking, a math professor explained to me exactly how the phrase “topology of the impossible” would function if considered in terms of maths, and it was ultimately fascinating and apparently actually “works.” Â Of course, I know next-to-nothing about math & was already wasted, so I unfortunately can’t tell you exactly what he said, hah!
So, basically, I’m not sure exactly how to map the topology of the impossible yet, but it’s certainly what I’m trying to do in text, image, and video.