I don't believe in culture ... I believe in encounters. -- Gilles Deleuze

The Infernal Grove

March 18th 2023


Where we’re calling from

The chiefs of the Infernal Grove and Jasmine Amussen vistited Yes We Cannibal for several days and held a study group in our gallery.

For the sixth session of the Infernal Grove Study Group,we will read Jasmine Amussen’s plaintive, smart “Letter from Arkansas: From the Pines”.  The text sprawls like a teenager in a rec-room–but it’s precise like a tooth or claw.  Amussen is an essayist, and her work is so good because it integrates personal and sociostructural analysis without differentiation.  

Amussen chose the Raymond Carver short story “Where I’m Calling From” in which an unnamed protagonist is dropped off at a rehab to dry out.  It doesn’t sprawl or bring to mind a teenager, but it betrays a similar deliberateness to Amussen’s.  Precise in the way of lawns and the neat American men that tend them.

She said she chose it “because it’s about the feelings of disconnection and isolation that happen when you remove yourself from life to either get clean or get high, two sides of the same coin, and how our relationships with others change in those private, isolated places, and how we can come back to each other.”

Artist and scholar Mat Keel locates the utility of The Infernal Grove in its rejection of dualism.  The Infernal Grove refuses the simple distinction between sober/drunk, good/bad, clean/unclean. Between the poison and the antidote.

Infernal Grove participant Liz Roberts made a movie in 2022 called Midwaste, about her years of active heroin use and subsequent sobriety.  It closes like this:

“I wasn’t bad then.  I’m not good now.”