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Electronic Desires

In order to simulate a domestic work environment, the following are tasks should be randomly assigned to audience members at readings of A Poem of Attitudes. The assignments are best conveyed through index cards, but of course any method is fine. Once the assignment is completed (and the card returned to the reader, who is directing her reading to an painted image of the founder of modern Turkey, Ataturk), the auditor will then leave the building. Once all the auditors have left, the reader will recite Paul Celan’s “Todesfuge” one time in German, and that is the end of the performance.



Electronic Desire 1:

You have an electronic desire for tight pants, but are embarrassed to expose this obsession. Fnd the person in the room with the tightest pants (or who looks most attractive in tight pants) and try to find out why he/she purchased them. Do not let on that you are interested in the pants; be clever and gather this information secretly. Find the person with the loosest pants in the room, and convey the information you have discovered to this person without letting him/her know you are doing so. Leave the room.


Electronic Desire 2:

You have an electronic desire to acquire votes in an upcoming election in which you are treasurer. Find the names of all the people in this room whom you don’t know (up to 15) along with the state/city/borough in which he/she lives. Once you have collected all of these names, alphabetize them and return them to me, who will eventually provide you with an email address. Leave the room


Electronic Desire 3:

You have an electronic desire to meet the person sitting directly across from you (if there is no one across from you, then the person behind you), but rather than a sexual or personal interest in this person, your interest is that of a evangelical therapist with a specialty on insecurity complexes. Approach this person, and try to engage in conversation with him/her. Convince this person that he/she is the most interesting person in the world; however, do all the taking, don’t let him/her get a word in edgewise. Be polite! When you are convinced that this other person has lost patience with you, leave the room.


Electronic Desire 4:

You have the electronic delusion that you are the two-year old daughter of a famous avant-garde artist, and your mother brings you to several parties where you behave very well. However, today you want to be outside playing in the snow (or running in the sun), and so you imagine that this room is actually outdoors. When you are feeling bored, make as much noise as you can without attracting the interest of your mother, who is the woman sitting directly across from you. If you are interested, remain silent. When your mother leaves the room, take her hand and leave also.


Electronic Desire 5:

Because you believe that smokers are an oppressed species despite the harm they do to themselves and others, you have an electronic desire to make sure that all smokers in the room are enjoying themselves. Find a smoker in the room and bum a cigarette off of him/her and deliver this cigarette to another smoker whom you fear ay not have any cigarettes, or to a non-smoker whom you believe should start. After you are convinced that all of the cigarettes in the room have been evenly distributed, leave the room.


Electronic Desire 6:

THe person sitting across from you is a famous avant-garde artist. You have an electronic desire to write a short essay on his/her work for a forthcoming issue of The New York Times with the hope of making him/her famous, and for this reason need to acquire bibliographic information on this writer. Interview this poet on his/her publishing history and general ideas on the premises of his/her work. Return the information to me and leave the room.


Electronic Desire 7:

You have an electronic desire to clean up the empty glasses and bottles in the room, but are afraid to leave the room because of your interest in hearing the music. Collect the glasses and bottles and place them on the largest table (or table where they will be most undisturbed) as quietly as possible. When you are done, leave the room.


Electronic Desire 8:

You are under the electronic delusion that you speak perfect German. In reality, you only know one line of Rilke’s: “Wer, wenn ich schriee, hörte mich denn aus der Engel Ordnungen?” You have spotted someone in the room whom you believe is German, and have an electronic desire to impress this person with your ability. Do so, using these or any German words you don’t know German sounds such as appropriate gutturals and a range of umlauted vowels. After you have exhausted the permutations of these sounds and the line from Rilke, leave the room.


Electronic Desire 9:

You have an electronic desire with political slogans. Collect three differing viewpoints on an event of the day, and create several slogans that represent these viewpoints, all starting with the phrase, “Master Frodo…” Cover the walls as completely as possible with these slogans. Leave the room.


Electronic Desire 10:

You have an electronic desire to purchase new shoes. You haven’t looked at what people are wearing on the street in nearly two years, and are afraid that the styles may have changed. Examine the shoes in the room, and determine whether they reflect what the world outside believes is fashionable footwear. However, like Plato you are not sure if your image in the cave reflects the reality outside. Interview the person with the most attractive shoes about where he/she bought the shoes, as well as his/her general philosophy on shoes. When the person has made a reference to Plato, leave the room.


Electronic Desire 11:

A very important event occurred today, one that you have an electronic assurance will make a significant impact on the immediate future of world events. However, you are not sure what this event was, and have an electronic desire to find out. Ask several people what they felt was the most important story that they read in the newspaper today. Keep doing this until you have received at least five duplicate answers. Describe this news event on a piece of paper and return it to the reader. Leave the room.


Electronic Desire 12:

You have an electronic interest in patterns of percussion, particularly those that are achieved by clapping. You like to preoccupy yourself with making intricate clapping rhythms and teaching them to friends so that you can perform them together. Create a clapping rhythm that you think you can teach to someone in a short time. Find a person whom you believe would be a good student, and teach the rhythm to him/her. Rehearse your routine to satisfaction and perform this to a group of attentive listeners. After the performance, leave the room.


Electronic Desire 13:

You have an electronic obsession with maintaining calm in the room, as if you were a bouncer with ambitions for sainthood. You fear that there is friction, and that someone is liable to “blow up” at any moment. Follow this person until he/she leaves the room, making sure that he/she avoids any serious points of contention with anyone else. Be discreet, but diligent! Leave the room once this person has left.


Electronic Desire 14:

You have an electronic obsession with haircuts, and hope to bring everybody up to the vanguard style. Find the person in the room who needs a haircut the most because he/she has become lax. Find the person with the most hip, over-managed hairstyle and introduce these two people to each other. Find a subject they have in common and like to discuss, an dif possible bring the conversation around to hairstyle. Once it becomes apparent to both of them that they conflict on the issue of hair care, leave the room.


Electronic Desire 15:

You have the electronic delusion that you have to meet someone forty minutes from now at Astor Square. Determine when you would have to eave the room so that you would be exactly five minutes late for the appointment. Leave the room at the time you have determined.


Electronic Desire 16:

Someone is trying to leave the room, but you have an electronic desire to have him/her stay until he/she has collected certain cues. Tell this person that he/she cannot leave until the word “disembark” has been spoken meaningfully by two other people. Go around the room eavesdropping on conversations until you have to agree that “disembark” has been said; if it takes too long to occur, artificially bring around situations that ar propitious for these events. After you are satisfied this has been done, leave the room.


Electronic Desire 17:

You have an electronic obsession with getting free drinks from the most unlikely persons. Find the person that is most enjoying the party and convince him/her that it is in his/her better interest to continue the party in the vicinity of the bar. Don’t let on that you are planning on asking him/her to buy you a ginger ale at the bar. Leave the room with this person.


Electronic Desire 18:

You have an electronic desire to confound others wit hermetic statements regarding members of their families. Locate those in the room who do not seem to be enjoying themselves and lure them to the bar with the line “Your Aunt Jessica is waiting for you in the other room.” If he/she asks what you mean, repeat only this line with whatever dramatic inflections are possible to convince him/her that he/she should leave the room. Once you have escorted seven of these people out of the room, leave the room yourself.


Electronic Desire 19:

You have an electronic delusion that disaster is imminent on Houston Street. Somebody has just started to put on his/her jacket. Stop him/her! After you have saved the lives of three people, calmly put on your jacket and leave the room.


Electronic Desire 20:

You have the electronic delusion that you the responsible mother of a pair of panda bears that have been stranded in Grand Central Station, and you must now collect enough bamboo sticks to feed them through the winter. Collect enough information from the people in this room about bamboo sticks ­– where to get them, how to store them ­– until you are satisfied that you can supply enough for your cubs. Leave the room.






Brian Kim Stefans

BRIAN KIM STEFANS is author of the poetry collections Free Space Comix, Gulf, and Angry Penguins, as well as of Fashionable Noise: On Digital Poetics. He has been an active presence on the internet for several years editing /Ubu editions and, a site devoted to new media poetry and poetics, and creating works such as the acclaimed Flash poem "The Dreamlife of Letters." He is an active critic, publishing frequently in the Boston Review, Jacket, and other publications.


The Brooklyn Rail

OCT 2005

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