Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Melanie Crean's How To Do Things With Words (at BOMBlog)

Here is a little piece I wrote about Melanie Crean's recent exhibit at Parsons, "How To Do Things With Words," which addresses the effect of speech performances within recent aesthetic practices upon political action and civic discourse:

Another artist whose work I came across for the first time is that of Azin Feizabadi, who had two video works in the show. The first video work, in collaboration with Ida Momennejad, The Epic of the Lovers: Mafia, God and the Citizens (2009), is a lyrical essay about the Iranian demonstrations following the elections of 2009. The visual content of the video features figures seated with hoods and veils covering their faces. On the hoods and veils are projected images taken from the Internet of participants from the 2009 demonstrations. The seated figures represented by the video move only slightly. When they do, the images projected on their faces become distorted and deformed. The images of projections alternate with amble black leader, which punctuates the lyrical tempo of the sound-track whereof one hears portions of a diary read by the collaborators, Feizabadi and Momennejad. The diary consists largely of a series of questions and observations focused on the demonstrations. Poignant about the questions, is how they address contemporary socio-political uprisings, and particularly the sense during such an event that one is no longer acting as a single individual. The lovers’ dialogue—if that’s what to call it—calls to our attention the dilemma of the subject who must perform agency as part of a spontaneous collective subject. Skepticism and hope pervade the dialogue, which offers a moving and thoughtful portrait of the Iranian demonstrations both as a specific geopolitical event and as an index of a more general problematic of how collective subjects may come into being and solidify.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Others Letters: Dan Thomas-Glass & Stephanie Young

I am pleased to announce the launch of a new project, Other Letters, which will feature correspondences between contemporary writers, artists, and culture workers that reflect current aesthetic practices and cultural production.

The first post features correspondence between Stephanie Young and Dan Thomas-Glass about Thomas-Glass's project with Aaron Sachs, 880, which he proposed to Young for Deep Oakland, a website devoted to social ecologies around Oakland and the Bay Area. As the description at Deep Oakland has it, 880 involves "An examination of Interstate 880 as an intermediate space: between languages and experience, history and present, dislocation and locatedness, as well as literally between media. Multiple speeds register; materials included iPhone camera, globalization, real estate developers, financial crisis, Google maps, and daily commute."

Please stay tuned for more correspondences in coming weeks!

Friday, November 26, 2010

To produce that failure
To represent the pain
Of others the living carcass
In a trial of innocence

Meat begets meat, fish fly-up,
Spill your guts in the air,
Strapped into the air
Like some Odysseus to his mast

What siren songs did you not hear
In your practice to profess
That failure to register the pain
No image will tell

What remains encases
Breath begets breath
But no one saves face
Since no one will be saved

Activity synchs these traces
The newspaper on any
Particular day
Becoming a withdrawal of day

Substituting hours for praise
To produce that failure
The world we would want inversely
Mourning becomes our joy

Affliction becomes a flight
From being afraid, presence escapes,
Tombs become archive-like
In the present

Deriving from these lips bounty praise,
Since nothing, since no
One will be saved
I take the world to be breath.

December and January at SEGUE

I am getting excited about the start of my third season co-curating SEGUE, which begins next Saturday (December 4th) at 4PM at the Bowery Poetry Club. I have posted the names of readers and the dates of their readings below. For bios you can go to SEGUE's website.








Wednesday, November 24, 2010

While you were perimeterizing
I was off being nowhere
Shimmering with neglect
Like this backlit praise

That other light
Must represent despair
Which raises us up by what powers
What powers, what powers

To which we will not grow
Feeling stops to form a focus
Stunned by our shapelessness
Need turns to broken song.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Glenn Beck Redux

“The more an affect is known to us, then, the more it is in our power, and the less the Mind is acted on by it.”
--Baruch Spinoza

Nicky Tiso took me up on my proposal to recompose the histrionic gestures of Glenn Beck, the footage of which is posted at Tiso's blog, Grand Hotel Abyss.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Rich Owens on Abandoned Buildings and Wild Horses Of Fire (PPNL)

Poet-scholar Rich Owens has a thoughtful essay in the new Poetry Project Newsletter addressing Sean Bonney's Abandoned Buildings and Wild Horses Of Fire in terms of devaluation, distributed authorship, and the limits of digital commoning.

You can also read a PDF of the essay at Michael Cross's The Disinhibitor and at the Poetry Project's website.

And here I sense the vehicle that delivers Bonney’s poems and Donovan’s criticism embodies almost precisely the same contradictions each confront in their thinking—that is, the very instrument that allows each to circulate their work to the widest possible audience also shackles and mediates it, distorts and compromises it, generating a tension that challenges the potential efficacy of the work. But the risk Bonney and Donovan court in addressing the commons by way of a fundamentally compromised and widely devalued digital publishing service alerts us to the rigid material limits we—as poets, artists and critics—are forced to work within and through.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

5 Questions with Carin Kuoni (at Art21)

My second post at Art21 blog for my column "5 Questions (for Contemporary Practice)" features Carin Kuoni of New School University's Vera List Center for Art and Politics:

Something unique about the VLC – and Kuoni’s approach as a curator (as you will see below) – is the extent to which she has thought through the ramifications of her programming and the VLC’s relationship both within the larger institution of The New School as well as the institutions and communities with which it has worked. I particularly admire that the VLC’s events tend to relate and build upon one another and reflect a curatorial ethos. I also admire very much the evolution of the VLC from strictly organizing programs and events towards more recently producing curricular documents (textbooks, anthologies) and creating a fellowship program intended to bring scholars, teachers, and artists to the university to participate in programs and curriculum.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The New (Chor)us

This past week I attended two readings at the St. Mark's Poetry Project on Monday and Wednesday nights. These readings featured Jennifer Karmin, Brandon Shimoda, and Dana Ward. Jen and Brandon read on Monday night and presented a perfect pairing, curated by Macgregor Card who is currently the Monday night series curator at the Poetry Project. What was striking between Jen’s and Brandon’s readings was that, in very different ways, they were both evoking forms of chorus. Jen did this literally, through a dramatic, polyvocal recitation of the first six cantos of her book, Aaaaaaaaaaalice, which I participated in. Brandon evoked the chorus through his reading from a scroll of poems that included pieces others had written for or about him, and which he has published (or intends to publish) under the (collective) name “Brandon Shimoda.”

The first poem read during his reading was in fact not read by him, but by the poet Kate Greenstreet, who was in attendence. So that after Brandon was introduced by Macgregor the first person you saw—as though a stand-in for Brandon—was Greenstreet, reading one of Brandon’s poems or one of her own (I am not sure which). There was an uncanny effect about this substitution, one perhaps telling of Brandon’s subject, which relates the historical and personal repercussions of Hiroshima/Nagasaki for the poet. Another substitution that occurred during the reading was when Brandon read a review of his book, The Alps, written by the poet-videographer Brandon Downing, who was also in attendance. In conclusion to his review Downing pronounces Brandon Shimoda "dead," a pronouncement I felt to be sublime within the context of Shimoda's reading, where Shimoda, as present as he was, seemed nowhere to be found--a continuous flutter of others' voices and autonomous imagery.

I wonder if this move to the chorus, and to substitutional performance modalities, is a return of sorts to the “death of the author” problematic which writers and artists have taken on in fundamental ways for the past half century, or if in fact what these writers are getting at is something different. In the work of both Jen and Brandon, a presumed author does not just become "decentered" or "obscured" in the course of a reading through the performance of appropriated texts, but dramatize their situation of address with those with whom they feel affinity, friendship, and a sense of community. In Jen’s case, as she travels to read in different cities she contacts a group of poets to perform her work in situ with her. In Brandon’s case, via the uncanny substitutions to which I have been referring, he evokes a multiple-singular subject, the use of a name to enfold others, to evoke the presence of their company, conversation, and particular relationships. Like Marguerite Duras and others before him, there is a sense that the 'self' in relation to others is labyrinthine rather than linear, refractive rather than reflective, polymorphous rather than univocal. The result is that one must ask the Nietzschean question “Who is speaking?,” which concerns the author function, yet it is also to recognize the author/person/subject—"Brandon Shimoda”—as a construction of correspondence and exchange, if not of love. The pursuit or process of love at least—a distribution of the ‘person’ or of the proper name as indication of collectivity evoking the heterogenous multiple.

Why the recourse to chorus now? Two other poets who have recently taken to choral modes of performance and aesthetic production are Robert Kocik, whose ongoing Phoneme Choir with choreographer Daria Fain includes professional and amateur performers from backgrounds in music, poetry, dance, visual art, and somatics/body work—and Jennifer Scappettone, whose recent collage work, which she will often read with a host of other performers, is imagined as a “pop-up chorus.”

My sense of the chorus offering a common form among recent poetries culminated this week with a reading by Dana Ward. In Dana’s work, multiple levels of discourse are put into play, narrative pov dissolving in an arduous path in which Ward encounters commodities in storefront windows, or recounts an encounter with a stranger on a plane in which he tries to explain what he does “for a living.” One very clear touchstone of Dana’s work is Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project, a sense that commodities are something Janus-faced, that they contain a dialectical tension in which both redemption and despair, fetish and use value, are replete with one another, in which they in fact produce a third quality held-up by the aesthetic object. So too, Dana's works takes-up New Narrative writing as a kind of template, and particularly the work of Bruce Boone. Who doesn’t hear Bruce’s legendary story, “My Walk With Bob,” in Dana’s recent chapbook, “Typing Wild Speech.” What I have been calling the choral mode of recent poetries (perhaps for lack of a better term) is most startling in Dana’s work where he reads letters he’s written (and some he’s received), foregrounding correspondence as a crucial moment of (his) process. By relating correspondence as he does through the format of poetry (in the name of poetry?), Dana radically destabilizes distinctions between private and public spheres, interiority and exteriority, and most of all formality and informalism (I am particularly fascinated by the ways that Dana uses informality as a rhetorical technique in his poems and during his readings, which both ingratiates his readers/listeners and commands their attention, which also plays in exciting ways with notions of decorum, elocution, and manner in regards to the poetry reading as a received format).

Life and writing meet in Dana's work, mediated by shared exigencies. The risk is a bad faith through which one's friendship and participation in community could ossify into an object, a potential consequence of process-based and participatory art that I see Ward rigorously resisting and foregrounding, trying to find a solution to, an exodus from. It will be exciting to see how his forthcoming books address this problem when they come out next year, since Dana's work has existed “off page” for the most part, circuiting in relatively private channels such as email exchanges and limited edition chapbooks (something he and I talk about here), and of course through the poetry reading itself as a mode of exchange and distribution.

Dana’s work is important for our moment—I believe it is anyway—because it is showing us again how the autobiographical and the socio-political are codependent, and how delicate the dramatization of this codependence is through a body of printed, non-circulating, and entirely oral (and aural) works. In this way, perhaps more than almost any other younger writer, he takes up the largely unpursued problematics of New Narrative writing: How to invent forms of writing which can combine autobiographical disclosure with critical analysis? How can forms of story become life-forms themselves? How can narrative formalize the process of a writer's non-alienation from a world of others? During a time when so many corners of our society demand that we identify and brand ourselves, Dana’s work—like Jen’s and Brandon’s—seeks transformation in a kind of radical porosity, a giving over of the work to others, a desire for vulnerability and openness, for lack of control, for infusion and dissolution in discourse, distribution, and modes of reception outside of appropriate/d channels.

Poets’ Potluck (@ the Poetry Project)

Please come next Friday, partake of food and drink, listen to some great poetry!

Co-curated by Brett Price, Thom Donovan, & Sara Wintz. The Thanksgiving Poets’ Potluck is an opportunity for New York City’s poetry community/ies to come together for an evening of readings, performances, and delicious food. An array of writers from the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s series as well as other local reading series will read/perform their work. Any one interested in bringing a dish for the potluck will contribute to an amazing Thanksgiving feast. If you’re interested in bringing food, please email Brett Price at fridaynightseriesp [at] gmail [dot]com.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Paul Thek’s "Teaching Notes"

The following is a transcription of Harrell Fletcher's invaluable transcription of Paul Thek's "teaching notes," contained in Fletcher's booklet Thek's Teaching Notes. The notes were generated for a "4-D Sculpture" class at Cooper Union taught by Thek between 1978-1981 (a core class in Cooper Union's curriculum at the time, as Flectcher explains in his introduction). Fletcher's booklet, published at his request by Publication Studio for an event at the Whitney around the current Thek retrospective, comprises a transcription of the artist's notes, and responses generated by Fletcher's 2007 studio class at Cooper Union, which (for lack of a better term) reenacted the content of Thek's original class based on the notes. Being particularly interested in the teaching practices of artists and writers, I find Thek's notes extremely curious, both as a document of his teaching practice and inasmuch as they reflect his larger aesthetic concerns and processes. I also find attractive Thek's approach to art through questions and exercises, which may instigate a process of self-discovery, interrogation, and dialogue with others. Namely, one's students.

Paul Thek’s "teaching notes":

Place of birth
Position in family
Career plans
Parents’ education
Parents’ birthplace
Parents’ religion
Where do you live now? With whom? For how long?
What income do you have? From what source?
What property do you own?
What are your requirements in a friend? Lover? Mate?
What kind of art do you like? Painting? Sculpture? Music?
What do you read? How often?
Do you buy books? Records?
What is your favorite color?
What are your politics?
Have you ever been seriously ill? Serious accidents?
What do you do on a date?
What is the purpose of dating?
Do you believe in premarital sex?
What happens after death?
Tell us about other members of your family.
Tell us about a close friend.
Tell us about someone who inspires you.
Tell us about the most exciting thing you ever saw, did.
How many rooms are there in your home?
How many floors? What floor do you live on?
Do you have your own room? Do you share it? With whom?
What does your room look like?
On what do you sleep? In what? In what position?
Do you take baths or showers? Do you use perfumes or deodorants?
What style or look do you prefer?
Are you interested in sports? Which? How often?
Do you believe in abortion? Do your parents?
What is your worst physical feature? Your best?
What is the main source of difficulty between you and your parents? Teachers? Friends?
What annoys you the most in others?
What kind of teacher do you prefer?
If you were a teacher what would you propose?
How would you grade your students?
What is eternity? What is love? What is art?
What is a symbol? What is religion? What is psychology?
Who are your role models?
Who is the person closest to you at the moment?
Who is the person physically closest to you at the moment?
What in your life is your greatest source of pleasure?
How do you know you love someone?
How do you know that someone is interested in you?
How do you know that you are happy, sad, nervous, bored?
What does this school need? This room? You? This city? This country?
What is abstraction?
What is a mystery religion?
What would it be like if you behaved with absolute power?
Redesign a rainbow.
Make a French-curve rainbow.
Design a labyrinth dedicated to Freud, using his photo and his writings.
Design a Torah.
Design a monstrance.
Illustrate the Godhead.
Add a station of the cross.
Design an abstract monument to Uncle Tom.
What is a good temple? A bad temple?
Who is your favorite character in the Bible?
Who is your favorite character in Gone With the Wind?
Why does an icon have to be human?
What is sacred? Profane?
What is the most beautiful thing in the world?
Make a paperdoll of yourself.
What is theology? What is secular?
Explain the Zen doctrine in your own words. What does it mean?
What does it mean “In the beginning was the Word”?
Can you find a book on making sculptures of paper?
Make a spaceship out of a cereal box.
Make a paper chain out of a book.
Redesign the human genitals so that they may be more equitable.
Design a feminist crucifixion scene.
Design something to sell on the street corner.
Design something to sell to the government.
Design something to put on an altar.
Design something to put over a child’s bed.
Design something to put over your bed when you make love.
Make a monkey out of clay.
Design a flying saucer as if it were The Ark.
Make a large folded-paper airplane, paint on it a slogan which you think will revolutionize your life.
Make an icon out of popcorn.
Pain a balloon gold, paint a balloon silver.
Make a necklace out of coal.
Paint a series of playing balls like planets, be accurate.
Design a black mass out of any materials you can find.
Design a work of art that fits in a matchbox, a shoebox.
Design a new clock face.
What is the difference between philosophy and theology?
Who is Hans Kung?
What is liberation theology?
What is mysticism?
Who was Meister Eckhart?
What is the purpose of art?
What does ‘spiritual’ mean to you?
What is the most difficult thing in life for you?
Can art be helpful in dealing with this difficulty? In what way?
What is ‘service’?
What is the purpose of society? Of government?
What is the surest way to happiness?
Who is Savanarola? Augustine?
What is attractive in a woman? A man?
What are the qualities of physique most attractive?
What are the personality problems of being an artist?
What is it like to be an American in the 20th century?
Who is Roosevelt?
What is action painting?
Pop art?
The Louvre?
What languages do you speak? Spoken at home?
What religious articles do you have in your home?
Make a skyscraper out of inappropriate materials.
Make a prisoner’s pillbox hat.
Make scatological object, or use scatological words.
Illustrate your strangeness, act out your most frightening perversity.
Design a box within a box to illustrate selfishness.
Design a throne.
Why are you here?
What is a shaman?
Make a piece of curative art.
Make a piece of psychological art.
What do you think has been the greatest hurt, mental and physical, that you have suffered?
What do you think are the qualities of a life fully lived?
Can you suggest a project, for yourself or for a group, or for any number, which might deepen your sensitivity to time?
What is greed?
What is verbal knowledge?
What does tactile mean? Can you show me an example of tactile sensitivity in your personal life?
What do you do to make yourself more attractive sexually? Why do you do this?
Do you really like very beautiful people? Do they really have special privileges?
What is polygamy? Explain its function in the society?
Make a design of your favorite literary person. Event. History. Project for Ellis Island.
How much time should you work on a class project? How much time should you think about it? Discuss it?
What do you think of money? Make a structure to me explaining your concept of money, or out of money.
Should art be useful? Useless?
What is pablum?
What is capitalism? Communism? Socialism?
What is leisure?
Make a structure out of photos of primitive people.
Make a structure illustrating anything from the book of proverbs.
Can you construct a functioning lamp that illustrates the concept of freedom?
Can you construct a functioning ashtray that illustrates the passage of time?
What is waste?
Who was Malthus?
How can we humanize the city?
How can we humanize Cooper? How can we redesign the Cooper triangle?
What should the student lounge look like? Where?

Remember, I’m going to mark you, it’s my great pleasure to reward real effort, it’s my great pleasure to punish stupidity, laziness and insincerity.

These marks won’t make much difference in your later life, but my reaction to you will, but the reactions of your classmates to what you do will.

Your classmates are your world, your future will be like this now, as you related to your present, you will relate to your future, recognize your weakness and do something about it.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

It's not clear whether
She's lost control again

Or if these ties the ropes
And pulleys are binding

One cherry leads to another
That's all we'll ever know

Scented fetishes in the
Global village of the elect

Affect has made them abject
It has made a fool

Out of processes
A montage of the orifices

Coursing through power
Saying it dumb in the

Wind like a name
We all can't share

Fisting what's without
Fingering the constellation

Baser games of telephone
Tell the nails to grow

A tale of power
Told by the soul at work

If above or below
These powers the boxes
Kept moving
If this was a game
We were making the rules
Up as we went along
As though within our
Own bodies without control
She's lost control again
We're just beginning
To manage her limbs
Like assemblage we shit
We perspire autonomy
When they tell us to
Only there is no me
And there is no you
There is no beginning
In other words to this
Process this continuous
Product producing our

Like in a harrows we sweat
Like in a vacuum of political
Control called representation
Called media saturated

We wake to this machine
The women already wake spinning
Their hair as if from gold
A myth of morning

The animals who make them awake
And who assist with production
Form an assembly line
Within an otherwise post-Fordist refrain

One lays in the grass
Like a patient or an object
How these women they are husbandry
And husband and husbanded

I want to call this rhizome
The endless exploitation extending without roots
From a thousand holes where power leaks
Conspires and condescends on bare asses
The ass without a face, the dehumanized ass
The face upon which one couldn't reproduce
When all we could do was produce
The hours expand, click into place.
Take a sample, that one is body, come down
From the cross, frisk the remains, of meat,
My contemporary, because it was enthusiastical,
To spin in your studio, before the world was
Made, face pressed to glass, air pressed,
You dance, you smile, to spin a kind of
Voguing, before there was air, your
Bloodstream, not a metaphor, for things believed
For a world that believed, art was the knowledge,
It was the sense of this, that there may
Still be communion, fucking will still be immanent,
Imagined as a sketch, in wax which breaks,
The insincerity of this, rises through a semblance.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Brandon Shimoda & Jennifer Karmin (at The Poetry Project)

Monday, November 8th

Brandon Shimoda
& Jennifer Karmin with guest performers
Cara Benson, Claire Donato, Thom Donovan,
Curtis Jensen, Pierre Joris, Michael Leong,
and Ronaldo Wilson

at The Poetry Project
131 E. 10th Street
admission $8
students & seniors $7

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

When nothing was
Heroic, what gives?
Where everything
Was a monument

Ligaments ripped from
Time and context
A pink rings the face
Dying into the face

No future, no future!
To have guts seemed
To cry out from
A place of grace.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Installing Spirit

--after Paul Thek

Our contemporary
Like blood heals
Like all is praised
In your notebooks

Where you thought it
To go down
Trace the blood
Where it moved

Like the soul was
The body there
Are concepts
Dicks build to

The sky and cease
So far steeped
Were we in blood
Like blood leaves

Like it heals
All we were
Despite its encasement
Lets in the air

To breathe to some-
times come
Matter stuck
To which machine

Corrupts, makes us
Bold, the body
Brought down
From this cross

Of concepts, like
Time itself
Remains a mould
So spirit clings

Disturbs the
Pinkish trace
Of me, the eyes
A butterfly adorns.

Like a Roman
I brag a lot
Like a Greek my
Flesh is mortal
It is here and
Public and not a slave
My deeds fade in the
Public eye like
Dreams of a socius
I am an Egyptian
Because the world
Is a tomb we live in
I leave pictures and
Words behind—
Fragments of an
Immortalized sun.

Our senses of installation
That blood and the breath are a sketch
Part of one photosynthesis
The shadows have come
To make us believe
One day they will make us one
With what will have been but not yet
Like any body grieves and grief is a debt
Never paid back
To worlds we have lost
For what we will lose procession turns
Into profession
Notes split space and air
You arrange what was smashed
You interact
Exalt the remnants no vision can possess.