XYZT: Kristen Alvanson and the Fire Girl

Still savoring XYZT by Kristen Alvanson, a quote from DASHT-E LUT: Fire Girl:

“Noise of the storm – the roar of an overworked furnace, then hissing gusts of wind. Orange-out. Suffocating sky. Sauna stench one second, campfire smoke the next. All hot. Hued flame. Rippling sand dunes like rows of weather-shifted trim. Your teeth hurt. You hadn’t realized there is a place on earth that looks like the craters of Mars. Abiotic. Incalescence, you think it cruel on your already charred body. Crueler than speed.”

This sense of desolation, wind, fire, and light; a realm devoid of life, a great vastation; a desert in the sense of the Great (Empty) Quarter. Samuel Johnson once quipped to his friend Boswell his disturbance during an outing,

“Sir,” said Dr. Johnson, “the corporeal gelidity and horripilation superinduced by the niveous atmosphere cannot be mitigated even by the mental incalescence evolved by indignation.” “He means,” whispered Mr. Boswell, “that it’s so infernally cold in the cars of the Third Avenue elevated that even swearing at the directors won’t warm you.”

Incalescence dates from the early seventeenth century; it was one of many words that were imported from Latin by scholarly writers around this time, in this case from incalescere, to become warm or hot. That’s from calere, to be warm, which is also the source of calorie, calorimeter, and other words.

For Alvanson this mental notation and use of incalescence caught between the cruel light of the sun and the heat of the inner-sense playing across the folds of her body provoke the poetry of light, desolation, and speed. The perfection of the ‘mot juste’ phrase “Crueler than speed.” evokes the sense of what Jason Bahbak Mohaghegh in his newly published Omnicide speaks of the augomaniac:

“We encounter our first augomaniac facing the robbed sublimity of a light which is no longer a universal constant but rather an atypical tinge of counter-universal experience (something that should never have happened). Light appears as a sudden infiltration of the continuous, an emergent force that violates the supposed essence of world.”1

Deleuze on cruelty and speed would relate,

“The sadist’s destructive relation to the fetish must be interpreted in the light of his projective use of fantasy. To say that the destruction of the fetish implies a belief in the fetish (as profanation is said to imply a belief in the sacred) is to indulge in meaningless generalities. The destruction of the fetish is a measure of the speed with which projection takes place, and of the way in which the dream as such is eliminated and the Idea erupts into the real waking world. By contrast, the constitution of the fetish in masochism points to the inner force of the fantasy, its characteristic of patient waiting, its suspended and static power, and the way in which the ideal and the real are together absorbed by it.” (Coldness and Cruelty).

In Alvanson’s vignette we enter the middle-ground, the in-between realms between the marvelous and the uncanny, caught in the fantastic we meet the Blue Jinn:

“Jinn’s blue light pierces through the color with the force that only true complementaries can deploy. Her light is cool blue, but hot to the touch. Jinns are smokeless fire.”

Enmeshed in the sadist’s destructive cold, yet suspended in the stasis of a power both natural and unnatural our anonymous voyager seeks her way between the Charybdis and Scylla of the ideal and real in a quickened incalescence of mind and body, physical and mental calibrations beyond calculation; a geometry of thought rather than form, a formlessness of pure incandescence. “A person’s body can call a Jinn. You did not know you had called her.” This sense of the body having a mind of its own, and that consciousness is at a loss in conveying the intelligence of the body’s inner sense. A moment entwined in time within time the Jinn will reveal, let her see askance, see into the “life of things” (Wallace Stevens):

‘What I see…’ She surveys the area again. ‘You will lose your faith.’ After saying it, she shakes your shoulders in rounded motions, and bones crack as your body realigns.

Tom Cheetham in Imaginal Love: The Meanings of Imagination in Henry Corbin speaks of these unbidden guests, Jinn, Angels:

“What we can have and what we do get, are angels ‒ absolutely essential intermediaries between Creation and the Ultimate Enigma. The faces of angels are really all we can ever imagine of the divinity immanent to the Real. Angels are created beings and so have a Dark Face and a Light Face, and it is the Dark Faces that we see ‒ though they look intensely illuminated from where we stand. It is a matter of degree, and there are numberless degrees of “angelicity” in the grand hierarchy of angels. The endless depths and heights of the world the angels inhabit is guaranteed by the wonderful fact that every angel in turn has its own angel. The function of the angel is always to reveal depth and serve as a luminous icon that stands as Light to the relative Dark of whatever stage a being has attained. The potential for motion onwards is unending ‒ motion both higher and deeper, for here they are the same. This is the function of the angel as the “Angel Out Ahead.” In the imagination of this cosmology, even the Supreme Being, the “God” of common theology, has an Angel Out Ahead to guarantee the endless Openness of reality.”

Maybe Kristen is reaching in-between two worlds, an inner-émigré to Iran, a voyage through that impossible ‘decolonization of thought’ (Viveiros de Castro, Cannibal Metaphysics) that leads us back into the light of the Real, renews our connection to the natural and the cosmic: produces a cosmos-theoretic fiction that absolves us of our darkened reasonings and opens us up to the other who, after all, has always been there in the blue light waiting for us. An incalescent illumination that warms us to the immanent transcendence between two cultures, two bodies; thought entwined in its own decolonization into light and flame and cold blue unknowing.

As she will ask of the blue Jinn,

What are you? You shiver

The wooden door and metal window on the second floor shake as if they are being blown out by a hurricane. She nods in your direction, then leaps so fast you can’t make out an afterglow.

Slowly, the door opens.

This, just this, is the openness to reality, the collusion in-between where our secure connectedness to the world we have always known, and the other realm (so close to us we can breath its blue fire) that co-habits this open space of intelligence: a place without precedence where language, silence, and vision open into rather than out of the fire, where messengers carry us across to the Others. The speed of thought decolonizing among the flames as it opens itself to the Other seeping back in… in the afterglow of this freedom the door opens between worlds touching and seeing into the life of things beyond despair and hope alike.


For more information see: XYZT – Urbanomic
Follow Kristen on Facebook: Kristen Alvanson
Get XYZT: MIT Press

  1.  Jason Bahbak Mohaghegh. Omnicide: Mania, Fatality, and the Future-in-Delirium. Urbanomic/Sequence Press (May 17, 2019)

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