This piece originally appeared in Issue 3.37 (Winter 2019)
Documents live without us.
A document can only tell you as much as you want to know about a document.
You trace the liner notes to see where you fit in the liner notes. Documentation reveals nothing and too much.
Aaron Vidaver’s Counter-Interpellation, Volume One (CUE Books, 2018) escorts the reader through a series of documents collected and compiled by Aaron Vidaver through a series of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests. Simple requests for specific documents take four to eight weeks, while more complex requests can take approximately six months. (Note: this collection is only Volume One, with at least three more waiting off-stage.) Counter-Interpellation, Volume One holds eight forms of documentation, from transcribed audio recordings of Aaron Vidaver’s father, Bill Vidaver, painstakingly working to cull words from Aaron Vidaver’s toddler mouth, to evaluations of Aaron Vidaver’s elementary school performance in 1975.
If you allow “the documents to speak for themselves” (to quote Reg Johanson’s introduction to Aaron Vidaver’s Counter-Interpellation reading at Merge on October 13, 2018), you begin with Bill and Josephine Vidaver’s application for “a child.” At this point in the compilation, Aaron Vidaver has yet to be hailed by any state apparatus, yet is already being imagined by the state. The Vidavers hope for “a child who is normal in intelligence, and to whom they could give every opportunity within the child’s capabilities and interest” (21).
A counter proposal: documents live without us. The documents do not begin with “a child,” just as the Archive did not begin with Derrida’s encounter with Freud. Counter-Interpellation does not aspire to catharsis; the book does not excise the state apparatus by offering the reader the structure of the state apparatus in the form of documents. In many ways, the desire for the idea of such a compilation, the Archive, is more powerful and graspable than its constructed form.
Large omissions scale the documents, crossed out in the original, highlighted black with InDesign. Another form of omission occurs in the section in which Bill Vidaver demands that Aaron Vidaver “say something. Say anything.” Aaron Vidaver “refuses” to say something, say anything—a “practice of refusal” (Johanson) that perhaps began at an early age. No, another counter here: refuse any compulsion to armchair-psychoanalyze the subject Aaron Vidaver, don’t presume, any more than Bill Vidaver does, that Aaron Vidaver “can’t talk” (82), that “He will be seen by Psychologist for personality and cognitive assessment” (110). The document seems impersonal and yet the personal irrupts into every fiber of the document. So handle with care, not conclusion.
I did not navigate this book as strictly poetry or as a poetics, nor as documentary poetics or documentary poetry. I approached it as I would an Archive, a house for documents; the book is a house for the production of the subject “Aaron Vidaver.” When Aaron Vidaver performs these documents, as he did at Merge, they become something other—they transform from FOI requests to published pages of “poetry” to a follow-along script. A script is different than a document, in that it provides a blueprint of which acts to perform. As a document turned script, Aaron Vidaver’s text conflates the performing subject (the subject hailed unconsciously) and the documented subject (the subject captured by the state). Aaron Vidaver’s performance of Aaron Vidaver materializes this inscription, unfolding the subject back into itself, performing a counter that reaches beyond the confines of the book as Archive.
“There is nowhere beyond interpellation for us,” writes Denise Riley, quoted by Aaron Vidaver. She also writes how her name is a “ready-made badge pinned,” “something that [she] pulls inside of [her] to make it [hers], drawing it in from the outside” (115). This is how Aaron Vidaver makes his ready-made badge “his”: not merely by compilation, but by the act of transcription. Aaron Vidaver is both typesetter and designer of Counter-Interpellation, Volume One. While rifling through these 139 pages, consider: if the state has pinned said badge on Aaron Vidaver, Aaron Vidaver has had a hand in fashioning it. A typesetter, like a translator, plays an invisible role for the reader (a role as invisible as ideology). This is indeed the counter in Counter-Interpellation, Volume One: Aaron Vidaver’s continued appearance in every bleed, bullet, gutter rendered invisible (ideological) by the logic of producing books of poetry, producing Archives.
Riley, Denise. Impersonal Passion: Language as Affect. Duke University Press, 2005.
Johanson, Reg. “Introduction.”Launch of Counter-Interpellation, Volume 1, 13 Oct. 2018, Merge, Vancouver, BC.
Vidaver, Aaron. Counter-Interpellation, Volume One, Cue Books, 2018.