Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Literal Hallucination

For the past year or so I have been making works with Photoshop software I have been calling literal hallucinations. While the term literal hallucination is taken from Louis Zukofsky’s *Bottom: on Shakespeare*, the actual works are indebted to my engagement with Susan Howe’s writing, as well as the art of Ed Rusha, the manuscript-texts of Hannah Weiner, the films of David Lynch and other sources. Something that has long interested me in Susan Howe’s work is the way she engages manuscript texts as visually based objects transforming them through diagrammatic and transcriptive forms. In the sense of these engagements I believe Howe hallucinates literally, or the literal: that is, she SEES radiantly printed objects in their object-hood, and translates this perceiving of objecthood from an “aural” (often) non-print based existence into a mechanically reproduced one—where her primary tools are the typewriter, photocopier, and (in more recent cases) computer/scanner. Such literal hallucinating is not only a vital way of subjecting textual-visual objects to mechanical transformation, but of expositing the original meanings of objects through description and diagram. Vision bears across in Howe’s use of the page where she often resorts to palimpsestual collages to display the noisy relationality of textual histories as well as in the poet’s significant inclusion of fascimiles; visions also of course come across in explosive uses of typographical and bibliographical elements. As literal hallucinations, Howe’s transcriptions themselves act as exercises allowing the poet both a closer identification (if not an invaluable *over*-identification) with her critical object, and a means of seeing that object more clearly in its information—whether “information” be penmenship, watermark, or illegibility (smudge, cross-out, ink-spill, etc.). In this latter respect Howe is not unlike Ed Ruscha who I’ve always found to have an uncanny way of laying bare the basic information of an object or objective relation to a point of revelatory estrangement; in the former, Howe is singular in her enthusiasm, and her determination to undergo the object of her perception and intelligence in order to convey that object’s actuality, therefore meaning. In this attempt to undergo there is a critical-aesthetic intelligence that trumps traditional literary scholarship in the latter’s neglect of alternative methods of study, and especially the investigation of visual-aural elements of meaningful emergence.

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