Capital C
by Steph Holl-Trieu

Most of my writing exists as a result of external circumstances, perhaps of being asked to contribute a text or to show a work, which usually is anchored in a practice of writing. Despite all the attempts to do otherwise, I only succeed in finding time to write when it is coupled to a source of income. Then, I land on a text that always feels like a compromise between intent, time pressure, political conviction and financial constraint. This piece is no exception. It was written in two-weeks time for a performative reading organised by PW-Magazine at Echo Correspondence in early June. Assembled from dream journals, direct and altered quotes by some of the writers I found myself surrounded with at that time, it represents only a surface-level snapshot of the deliberations and conflicts that inform it. 

Feel invited to listen to the composition linked below. It accompanied and structured the reading into three acts, each act punctured by a repeating guitar riff ‘like a broken-off chord that you can still hear’. The three-act structure was mirrored by my body inhabiting three different locations of the courtyard, melding with a different part of the audience. In each of these locations some would see me reading, while many could not, calling into question the modes of perception of hearing, listening, seeing, and witnessing as they are distributed between performer and audience. Needless to say, these are all aspects that are lost when such a text is published and abstracted from its intended body, voice and environment. At the same time, it is also given the opportunity to take on new meaning as it enters other material relations of being read and disseminated. So, give it the benefit of doubt in the most earnest sense.


It’s time to tell you a story, but first we need to set it up

If you are looking for a stage, you’ll find there’s nothing for you to see
The stage is a luxury we won’t entertain for now
Besides, luxury is what we could be revelling in all the time
In excess of what is necessary
In excess of what is demanded of us
In excess of what it entails to function and produce
In excess of sleeping and eating and cleaning and giving a fuck

Luxury is always there, and so is the stage
But just like time, it’s not very evenly distributed

Some of us write because there are problems to solve
And some of write out of economic necessity
And then rarely, there are some who write purely out of pleasure
There’s a fourth category, but let‘s leave that to the very end

For now, this story emerges in varying levels of intensity
Building and building until it subsides
For now, means for the time being
For now, until the situation changes

For now, the time found
In the slivers, threads, of self-directed life that trickle down
They say “A rising tide lifts all boats”
We say “This is a lie”

The stage is always there
That is in the interstice between you and I

You will always find something when you stop looking
That is in the subterranean currents of us flesh and blood people

Within that meaning-space, that is, between your skin and its surroundings
And this is where this story takes place, a piece that the dream-work has woven:


Without punctuation, with barely a breath to take

You land on a bed which is a structure inside a flat in a house on a street
In a neighbourhood in a city within a country that is made
And unmade of borders on a planet which orbits around the sun
In a container known as universe uncontained in the cosmos

A bed is a structure in the cosmos
On which you lie dreaming while being awake
Or lie awake inside a dream
It’s not a matter of perspective but one of conviction

The cosmos collapses onto your bed because of conflict
Because a bed is both larger and smaller than the cosmos
Because the cosmos is too large for you to grasp
Because it’s impossible to take ahold of an object of this scale

Louise Bourgeois once had a dream in which she was waiting for
Something to emerge that only her husband would be able to hold on to for her
But that idiot didn’t wake up in time
When it came, she came as she kissed her mother
In her mouth she found an object shaped like an almond
That was harder than soap but not harder than marble
Which she lost due to the idiot husband who didn’t wake up when she called

It’s easier to take ahold of an object at scale
When you can compare it to something you already know

For example, you know that by now a Euro is nearly the value of a US Dollar; You know that when Bretton Woods was signed two thirds of the world’s gold was controlled by the United States; You know that when the dollar was no longer pegged to gold the world economy lost its shit– I mean the grasp on currencies to the valuation of the market; You know that when Rosa Luxemburg is placed in prison, then murdered, but the IMF mob roams freely;

You know history is too right to be true

You unravel the dream-work and find yourself reading a quote by Mark Fisher:
“Briefly interrupted in 2008, the banking crisis is some repressed trauma which is known about but never confronted, a Real that the dreamer stays asleep to keep avoiding. Capital is the dreamer here, and, insofar as capitalist realism is sustained, we remain figments in its dream. Yet capital is also our dream, which, Matrix-like, has constructed the virtual reality in which we think we live from our energy, our desires and our fantasies.”[1]

And so, on certain days the cosmos can be found sprawled across the bed
as much as the more common conception of science which states
that the bed is best conceived as a structure inside the cosmos

On those days the cosmos collapses onto the bed
Like the pile of bones which sometimes hold up
The pile of cells also known as your body

There are days on which it matters that the bed is larger than the cosmos
And then there are days when it matters that the cosmos is larger than life
Because this is where the awake dream cannibalises the dream of being awake
And some days nothing seems to really matter

On those days you find comfort in the yearning for music that inspires those dreams
Like a broken-off chord that you can still hear


You wake up in search of a world elsewhere
A world to come
A world within a world

There’s a beach on which three crabs
Lie sunbathing under parasols
Made from fine fabric
Fabric which reflects light but also
Allows for light to pass through
Otherwise, those crabs would not be tanning

Reality is the wave growing tall like a wall
Or a giant paw rising from the ocean
Threatening to remove all traces from history
Composed of finely divided rock and mineral particles

Mind you, the virtual crab family
If there is a message
Relays to you that the feed is a hoax
The Internet lies

Everything of value
Can be found in thoughts
Contained in notes which you took
At three in the morning
When you’ve grown tired of trying to fall asleep three times already

Anything of value
Can be found on those pages you can’t read

There it says: Even though no progress has been made
It is time to let this one go and move on.
In the long run, surely,
Things will turn out for the best

You know this to be untrue
So you wind back your dream
Until speech and image separate
And something rises to the surface:
An inverted structure of reality

In a piece of writing titled No, Anne Boyer assembles the reversals and transpositions of Walt Whitman and Brecht:

“Let the reformers descend from the stands where they are
    forever bawling—let an idiot or insane person appear on
    each of the stands;
Let the judges and criminals be transposed—let the prison
    keepers be put in prison—let those that were prisoners
    take the keys;
Let them that distrust birth and death lead the rest.”[2]

“So it is: the nobles lament and the servants rejoice. Every city says: Let us drive the strong from out of our midst. The offices are broken open and the documents removed. The slaves are becoming masters.


So it is: The ebony poor boxes are being broken up; the noble sesban wood is cut up into beds. Behold, the capital city has collapsed in an hour. Behold, the poor of the land have become rich.”[3]

And were it true we do not think all philosophy is worth one hour of pain
And were it true so the cosmos would collapse onto the bed in an hour

So it is, Anne: a refusalist poet’s “against” is an agile and capacious “for”.

So it is: Let the turning of the world upside down, which is often a kind of poetry, not have to be limited to words.[4]

So it is: The painting shows an angel looking as though he is about to move towards something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are soft, his mouth content, his wings resting. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned towards the present. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees the end of a single catastrophe which no longer keeps piling wreckage and buries it at his feet. The angel stays, awakens the dead and makes whole what has been smashed. The storm that we call progress no longer blows from paradise; no longer catches his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The fear of others getting ahead is no longer confused with the fear of not being able to move at all.[5]

So it is: the end of freely-marketed panic and the rationality of competition leads to both divine and material wealth. What for very few means a lowering of standards of living has also become known as the enrichment of life.[6]

Some of us write because there are problems to solve
And some of write out of economic necessity
And then rarely, there are some who write purely out of pleasure
At times, some of us choose silence, not as an act of consent, but of conspiracy.

[1] Mark Fisher, Communist Realism
[2] Walt Whitman, Transpositions, quoted by Anne Boyer in No
[3] An Egyptian poet cited in Bertold Brecht’s Writing the Truth–Five Difficulties, quoted by Anne Boyer in No
[4] Anne Boyer, No
[5] Walter Benjamin, On the Concept of History
[6] Ann Cotten, Rain For All