1128: Post-Industrial Society Has Arrived by Vidhu Aggarwal

20240529 Slowdown

1128: Post-Industrial Society Has Arrived by Vidhu Aggarwal


I’m Major Jackson, and this is The Slowdown.

In writing about a specific work of art, I enjoy how ekphrastic poets invite me to meditate upon suggested themes and approaches that I had not considered before. The intentions of artists often elude me, especially non-figural and abstract art. Many do not want their canvases quickly consumed like fast-food meals. I get that. For what is behind some art is a disruption, a provocation, a protest against convention, artworks that ask of me, patience to assume a different relationship to time and to my humanity. For this reason, I almost never dismiss art as self-indulgent. I try to let a canvas unfold and reveal itself. I practice slow attentive looking; I sit for long stretches in museum galleries and study every inch of a painting. Even still, I miss a lot.

Fortunately, poets possess an equally expansive intuition, a proclivity towards image-making that meets head-on the most difficult of artists. In responding to works of art, poets perform the gift of interpretation. By turning language into a critical practice, they find pathways into paintings and teach us how to see what they see. They make the paintings speak.

I enjoy how the author of today’s poem guides us through a canvas by poet and Chinese ink painter Lo Ch’ing. The author ties together Ch’ing’s dreamlike images (an explosive sunset, skyscrapers, a temple, a sickle moon, a wall of clouds) into a linguistically rich commentary on the unabating, all-consuming nature of capitalism.

Post-Industrial Society Has Arrived
Lo Ch’ing, Post-Industrial Society Has Arrived. 2016. Image used by permission of the artist.

Post-Industrial Society Has Arrived
by Vidhu Aggarwal

                                                                                    @agirl, chasing her cloud formations into the maze.

                                                                                    @! @! @!

                                                                                    atomic clouds! clouds of barista macchiatos!

                                                                                    Welcome to compulsion!

                                                                                    @agirl, force of nature, where are you?

O maze, O labyrinth, O vortex of my capitalistic yearnings, gulping down the girl, the force—
the disappearing labor force, the electromagnetic force, the strong nuclear force,
the force of gravity!

                                       @agirl, how your material being floats inside the maze, inflation adjusted!
                                       @agirl, there is nothing to hold you, but you are caught, no? 
                                       @agirl you are not jobless. No! You generate 

loads of foam. Rapturous clouds drift out from your very being! The foam has purpose!
The foam

obscures the absolute shrinkage of the goods. I don’t see the goods. I don’t see the gods.
I only see vistas

suspended inside the service sector. Skyscrapers cutting into view, into the cloud foam, into
the red blazing sunset of the free market.

                   @agirl, where are you? 
                   @agirl, are you the swirling caryatid, a grey cyclone holding up a lone
                   skyscraper, your shadow raking the electrified edge of the field?

Or are you a haze of particles 
circulating fervently within the tiny atavistic temple
atop the highest vista
where trees hang out? I mean “topiary” because even the trees are trained.
Who trained them? A refrain of engineered trees, emanating
from the tiny red temple, buzzing through trapezoids 
of privatized lightning-charged vistas, buzzing through the maze, through the signs of our time. 

@agirl, are you a damsel? Do damsels float? Do damsels require job training?
Do damsels still spread

their accelerated skills and frothy distress signals into the post-industrial age?

"Post-Industrial Society Has Arrived" by Vidhu Aggarwal. Used by permission of the poet.