Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Friday, October 27, 2006
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Thursday, October 12, 2006
The heft of video tape weighs on the world. Stacks and stacks of Betamax, VHS, and ¾” tape sit on aluminum shelves and hang low in bargain bins. A world of images screened only in conference rooms, rec-centers, waiting stalls and training halls has been ejected from life. Who are the brave architects that will construct a Library of Alexandria for our long-playing motivational minds?
The answer, it seems, is Animal Charm.
But don’t take our word for it. Read what cultural critic and UC Berkeley film professor Niyoma Wataporn has to say: “Hypertrophic, hypnagogic, and hyperreal—these are the qualities of our times and Animal Charm brings them to us in all their damning splendor. Jim Fetterley and Rich Bott never allow their audience to simply smile while watching their videos. One must double up in laughter or weep openly.”
The only smilers are the sad figures that populate the motivational videos and training tapes repurposed by Animal Charm into uncanny works of art. These funboys smile at jiggling, aerobicized bodies; they smile at leaping lemurs; they smile at outdated technology; they smile at success; and, most of all, they smile at creeping corporate horror.
This sense of corporate horror is most evident in videos such as "Street Shapes" and "Mark Roth", where open industrial spaces vie with enclosed cubicles to become ciphers for psychological and physical threat. Banal everyday objects take on a menacing, almost animal persistence. Parking curbs, utility shacks, file cabinets, escalators, parking lights…in these short videos, such objects are raised to the indignity of a person since, like a person, these objects have nefarious pasts. Which Enron executive’s car did this parking space once hold? Whose house was demolished to make way for this illustrious business park? Who or what is watching you? Or rather, what are you watching? A business meeting, or the movement of a pen, can be as frightening as any horror show.
In his book Capitalizing on Culture, Shane Gunster writes, “the ‘facticity,’ the apparent utility, of most commodities makes it difficult for people to understand how most objects – or more precisely, a system that satisfies needs by producing more and better commodities – might actually constitute a barrier to human self-development.” Animal Charm, befitting their identity as video terrorists, answers: “A professional pleaser…what’s that?” Gunster writes: “The endless production of material objects helps foster the illusion that bourgeois society is actually delivering on its promises. As they are fetishized, these objects are worshipped as the realization of a wish, rather than simply its image.” Animal Charm retorts: “Imagine a dolphin. Bet you wish you hadn’t.”
In today’s online world of YouTube and Google Video, where video sampling and mixing has become all too common (and somewhat tamed), where strategies of social critique quickly become marketing tools, Animal Charm have emerged as sentries to the gods. For now at least, Animal Charm have made the world safe for curating the commons and drinking deep the banal, sweet Jesus-juice of animal husbandry. As their alter-egos Struthers & Fields lament, “Thank god, at least, they’ve not yet found a way to kill the wind. They’ve not yet found a way to harm the sky…but they will…”
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
...the mnemonic easily tips into the memorializing, that is to say, into a demand that the historical be monumentalized, and often today what is monumentalized is the traumatic....we seem to live in a culture fixed on horrific pasts, not in a culture desirous of transfigured futures. From my perspective its political effects are disastrous: we live under the repressive dread of antidemocratic blackmails ("9/11," "the war on terrorism," etc). - Hal Foster
Monday, August 28, 2006
Dalton has lived in California most of his life, long enough — and far and wide enough — to know that "most people in Northern California have definite opinions about LA, and people in LA are just kind of oblivious." I tell him that a friend of mine once made this observation to me after a stereotypical Mission hipster threw attitude at him upon hearing he was moving back to LA. "That's why LA wins," Dalton agrees with a laugh. "It says, ‘What? You hate us!?’”
The DC also provide the soundtrack to many of Cathy Begien's videos.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
We’re having a timely conversation over at Stan Apps’ blog about violence, aesthetics, the
Friday, July 28, 2006
(click on photo to enlarge)
“Dr. Eufencio Rojas!”...
(Sound of locked jawbone cracking)
“Dr. Renato Frias!"...
All are gathered here to pick up the parts and play with the remnants of Sr. Romo’s backhands.
First, let’s examine this document entitled, The Crystal Brilliance Manifesto. We have all studied The Art of Noises, have we not? Do you sense a rupture in the seams of 20th century art history now that we have come to a point where we can conjure the Futurists perfectly at home on Whittier Blvd?
Your Crystal Brilliance Manifesto loops los planes (which we remember were penned with blood, cactus, and semen) with the escritos of David Alfaro Siqueiros. His seemingly hazardous development was “an antinomic double objective: on one hand, encouraging the development of "new means" for literature and the visual arts through the incorporation of avant-garde principles; on the other, the promotion of truly independent perspectives based on the recovery of indigenous traditions.” (Mari Carmen Ramirez)
Romo, you penned, “Think of a mural dedicated to double vision, to sound, to the dead twin of the puff of smoke that you released from your lungs one night, to the long faded trails of movement left behind by your hands pushing into the concrete. Sounds should pass through your mind about now, wooshes and abstract noises and fractal like guffaws, hoots and car horns."
And then a crash defines the disso-stinct…and then we see the cinematic trails of Siqueiros project which somehow landed in Sergei Eisenstein’s erotic film bins.Sr. Romo, think back to the Futurists’ dream of a mural dedicated to sound—think of Russolo’s praise of the-- “crashing down of metal shop blinds, slamming doors, the hubbub and shuffling of crowds, the variety of din, from stations, railways, iron foundries, spinning mills, printing works, electric power stations and underground railways…” (Russolo 85 Futurist Manifestos, edited by Umbro Apollonio, Boston, Museum of Fine Arts Publications, 2001: 74-77.)
-from Vast Arcade Los Angeles: An Introduction to the Project by way of an Interview Conducted by Rita Gonzalez at the Home of Arturo Romo, 8/20/05
Arturo Romo's Vast Arcade Los Angeles can currently be seen along with Kalup Linzy's All My Children at LAX Art in Los Angeles.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
This should go in the comments section of Silliman’s Blog, but he’s turned his comments off, so I’ll respond here.
In response to Sherwood Anderson’s 1918 poem “Song to New Song”, Ron writes:
Several things in this text stand out, above & beyond the obvious influence of Whitman. One is the fact that there is nothing personal here about the use of the first person singular. Is “I” here even a person? More accurately, it strikes me as a rhetorical position. Nor is there anything personal, even personified, about “you,” bird man of the furnaces. Rather, this is a kind of public, figurative language we hardly hear any more, save possibly in church. If it seems preposterous or stilted or dated, that is the index of just how far outside our expectations such language is today within the poem.
Ron is referring to Sherwood Anderson’s rhetorical, and presumably communal, use of I and you: “I greet thee, horse and terrible singer, half man, half bird, strong, winged one./I see you float in cold bleak winds,/Your wings burned by the fires of furnaces…”
My first thought was that this language is epic language, and that indeed one occasionally does find such language used in contemporary poetry, if only ironically . My second thought was of Juliana Spahr and her repeated address to “Beloveds” and her use of the rhetorical I in her book This Connection of Everyone with Lungs (Spahr was also ready-at-mind for Gabe Gudding). Finally, I recalled the very common use of infinitives that function rhetorically, figuratively, and publicly, and that are often composed as lists in much contemporary poetry. This sort of infinitival excessiveness is the syntactic soft spot into which the public I and rhetorical you have recently wiggled: “To labor night and day/To bear rain or wind/To eat badly and to sleep badly, etc., etc.” In Heretical Imperialism Pier Paolo Pasolini calls this the “inchoative infinitive”:
…. “inchoative,” that is, as description of repeated actions – always because of a normativity alluded to with the absolute certainty of being understood, of exciting sympathetic sentiments in other people who not only have had similar experiences but who don’t even have the possibility of thinking for themselves of different experiences….The infinitival category […] in any case implies a humble and, I would say, labor-union-like epic quality: and so it does not imply only a simple “reanimation” of the speech of a speaker as a statistically and above all socially individualized particular character, but of a typical speaker, a representative of a whole category of speakers, thus of a milieu, even a people….The sympathy of the author in reanimating his speech grammatically thus doesn’t go out to him, but to all those like him, to his world.
The Mummer's Play by Vanessa Place
starring Christine Wertheim, Matias Viegener, Teresa Carmody, Vanessa Place, and Maude Place as Twing Twang
Bad Fuggums by Joseph Mosconi
starring Andrew Maxwell, Rita Gonzalez, and Joseph Mosconi
Rootbots by Matt Timmons
starring Steph Rioux, Stan Apps, and Matt Timmons
excerpts from Conduction in the Catacombs, by Will Alexander
starring Tova Cooper and Alison McDonell
Optimist Meets Pessimist by Stan Apps
starring Brook Haley and Jen Rust
What Do You Know of Ghosts? by K. Lorraine Graham
starring K. Lorraine Graham and Mark Wallace
sections from Dark Carnival by Mark Wallace
starring K. Lorraine Graham and Mark Wallace
Balm to Bilk by Rodrigo Toscano
starring K. Lorraine Graham and Mark Wallace
Monkeys in the House by Harold Abramowitz
starring Steph Rioux, Stan Apps, and Matt Timmons
Doors open at 6:30. $5 at the door to support artistes.
247 S. Main Street
Los Angeles, CA
Please don't throw rotten vegetables. I've never written a play before.
The 3rd installment of Long Beach Notebook
Saturday, July 29, 8PM
Aaron Kunin is the author of Folding Ruler Star (Fence Books, 2005), a collection of small poems about shame. The Mandarin, a novel, is forthcoming in 2007. He lives in California and teaches negative anthropology at Pomona College.
Ara Shirinyan is writer and editor of Make Now Press in Los Angeles. He curates the Last Sunday of the Month Reading Series at the Smell in Los Angeles with Stan Apps and Teresa Carmody. His chapbook Handsome Fish Offices is due out later this year on INSERT PRESS.
Jen Benka's collection, A Box of Longing With Fifty Drawers, which is comprised of one poem for each of the 52 words in the Preamble, was published by Soft Skull Press in 2005. She is also the author of the Eisner-nominated indy comic book series, Manya. She is the recipient of grants and awards from Intermedia Arts, the Poetry/Film Workshop, Wisconsin Arts Board, and the Xeric Foundation. She works as the managing director of Poets & Writers, and on the side, organizes poetry events, which have included a 24-hour marathon reading of the complete poems of Emily Dickinson, a protest reading during the 2005 Republican National Convention, and currently, a 5-night festival celebrating women poets. She lives in New York City.
LONG BEACH NOTEBOOK is held at the home & office of Palm Press:
143 Ravenna Drive
Long Beach, CA 90803
Thursday, July 20, 2006
When Romanian artist Alex Dragulescu looks at junk e-mails, he sees patterns - bits and bytes that can be manipulated into colorful plantlike images or stark architectural forms.
As a graduate student at the University of California, San Diego, he and fellow student Tim Jaeger collected spam and used it to create live multimedia shows of sound, text, and animation - "like a VJ and DJ performance," Mr. Dragulescu says in a phone interview.
Monday, July 17, 2006
Only here it's called Da Benshi in order to differentiate it from the Bay Area chapter. Like Berlin and Zurich DaDa?
Amar Ravva and Harold Abramowitz are curating the bi-monthly live film (or video) narration series at Beta-Level in Chinatown (Da Benshi Code is the official series name).
The Mask of Zardoz is its logo.
Saturday night was Episode 1: My Dog Benshi, featuring "Jury Duty" by Oliver Hall (A Few Good Men served as the source text; instead of being court-martialed, Jack Nicholson was brought to court for...); "Monster" by Jason Brown (Jason used a sampler and turntable to narrate a collage of silent monster films); and "Bubonic Phonics" by DJ Eng (found footage of a squirrel met a live human chorus shouting "Bu-bo-nic Plague!").
The highlight of the night, however, was "Goooaaalll!!!" by Stan Apps and Mathew Timmons. Stan was out of town, so his disembodied pre-recorded voice ineracted with Matt's live narration as they scoured the tubby universe of Spanish commercials and trash television.
Guess who they found there?
Jim Behrle, "the poet capitalist", "the fruit of the loom of romanticism".
Lucky for us, Stan and Matt have taken a video polaroid for posterity.
Watch Goooaaalll!!! by Stan Apps and Mathew Timmons on YouTube:
And check out Harold Abramowitz's chapbook Three Column Table out now on Insert Press (no website yet, but query Stan or Matt for copies).
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Friday, July 07, 2006
Friday, June 30, 2006
Beyond Baroque, 681 Venice Blvd. Venice, CA, 7:30pm
TOM ORANGE, K. LORRAINE GRAHAM, MARK WALLACE, and CATHERINE DALY
Come celebrate the spirit of post moot, including but not limited to all forms of experimental poetic work that are both live and exist as objects. TOM ORANGE has co-curated the in your ear reading series at the District of Columbia Arts Center and edited the dcpoetry.com website and anthologies since Fall 2000 . CATHERINE DALY is author of DaDaDa, Locket, Secret Kitty, and To Delite and Instruct . MARK WALLACE is author of a number of books of poems, most recently Temporary Worker Rides A Subway . K. LORRAINE GRAHAM is author of two chapbooks, Dear (Blank) I Believe in Other Worlds (Phylum) and Terminal Humming (Slack Buddha
Incendiary Spirals, Words and Music at The Space at Fountain's End
3929 Fountain Ave., Los Angeles CA, 8pm
Estrella del Valle
Sunday, June 25, 2006
Levine, Matthew Stadler, and Stephen Ratcliffe.
The Smell, 247 S. Main Street, Los Angeles,
Sun, June 25, 6:30 pm, $5, (323) 304-2277.
Aaron Kunin writes poetry, criticism, and novels. Recent work has appeared in Boog City, No: A Journal of the Arts, The Poetry Project Newsletter, The Poker, and elsewhere. His book, Folding Ruler Star, has been published by Fence Books, and his e-chapbook The Mauberly Series can be downloaded from ubu editions. His work is in a minimalist tradition of strictly limited vocabularies and word-counts, and yet simultaneously revisits the themes or structures of classic works by poets like Milton and Pound. Aaron teaches 17th century literature at Pomona College.
Stacey Levine is a Seattle-based author. Her books include My Horse and Other Stories and Dra--, a novel, both published by Sun & Moon Press; her novel Frances Johnson was recently published by Clear Cut Press. She has written for the American Book Review, Bookforum, Nest, The Seattle Times, The Stranger, and more frightening venues. Formerly a creative writing instructor, she is now working on a second collection of short fiction.
Matthew Stadler is a novelist (Allan Stein, The Sex Offender, Landscape: Memory) and a contributor to Artforum, The Organ, Dwell, The Oregonian, Frieze, Domus, and others. He was the literary editor of Nest magazine and is co-founder and editor of Clear Cut Press.
Stephen Ratcliffe's latest books of poetry are Portraits & Repetition (The Post-Apollo Press, 2002) and SOUND/(system) (Green Integer, 2002). Recent poems have appeared in 1913, Chain, Denver Quarterly, P-QUEUE, New American Writing, LIT, Bombay Gin, Common Knowledge, War & Peace, Conjunctions and NO. Listening to Reading, a book of essays on sound/shape and meaning in experimental poetry, was published by SUNY Press in 2000. He has recently completed a 1,000 page book of poems called HUMAN / NATURE (1,000 poems written in 1,000 consecutive days). He lives in Bolinas, California where he publishes Avenue B, and teaches at Mills College in Oakland.
Smell Last Sunday of the Month Reading Series is sponsored by Insert Press, Les Figues Press, Make Now Press, and supported by Poets & Writers, Inc, through a grant it has received from The James Irvine Foundation.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Friday, June 16, 2006
Lisa Lapinski, a Los Angeles-based artist, exhibits a marked fascination with esoteric systems of thought and the limits of language in her installation and sculptural work. For her
Thursday, June 15, 2006
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Every year, usually around the time of the Festival of Books, the Los Angeles Times publishes an article that attempts to debunk the myth of Los Angeles as an unliterary city. I love myths. They index real-world phenomena. And those perennial articles are a load of crap. Los Angeles isn’t a literary city. Never has been. The Festival of Books is an industry affair, a front for the newspaper book review. We had Zizek at a Santa Monica bookstore and less than twenty people showed up. The guy introducing him didn’t even know how to pronounce his name. I remember going to some of the readings Andrew Maxwell used to put on at Dawson’s Books a few years ago; I was embarrassed at some of the turnouts (as I’m sure Andrew was as well…most of the readings were excellent, and some of the turnouts were great; but you know, how do you apologize to a poet when she's flown in from across the country and only two people show up?)
So Southern California is not really a literary place, but it does have a literary history, and there are a ton of poets here (a few months ago Catherine Daly made a list of Southern California poets on her blog – she has since taken it down – but it numbered over 650). And it’s not as if we don’t have a plethora of reading series and salons and festivals; there’s the Last Sunday of the Month reading series at the Smell, Jen Hofer’s Moving Word film and poetry series, Jane Sprague’s Long Beach Notebook, the High Energy Constructs series, Douglas Messerli’s Green Integer Salons, the yearly experimental writing conferences at the Redcat, the new Middle Monday of the month reading series at the Coffee Fix, Beyond Baroque, the LA Lit podcast…but somehow the Southern California poetry scene does not cohere in the way the Bay Area seems to (maybe the Bay Area just seems coherent from my point-of-view, but I doubt it). (And I see that Bay Poetics was originally meant to be an issue of Jack Kimball's The East Village, following up on the LA/NY issue; of which, the LA section, compared to both the online New York section and the print Bay Area section, is not nearly as expansive and seems somewhat narrow in its selection). Los Angeles is certainly not on the top of the list for traveling readers. “What? So-and-so New York poet is reading in San Francisco? Can’t we get her to come and read in LA?” Well…
Part of the problem may be that Southern Californian poets don’t seem to like publicity, and New York and San Francisco seem to have literary genes built into their DNA; Angelenos live in the shadow of Hollywood; publicity in that context just seems crass, insincere. “After all, we have no coherent literary scene. You have to drive 45 minutes across town just to go to a reading.” There also has never been a really great anthology for the area. (Green Integer recently put out a good anthology, but it was justly criticized for having an average age of 56). And many Los Angeles writers are vehemently anti-provincial; the very mention of a Los Angeles or Southern California anthology makes some shudder. “What would we call it,” said a friend, “Freeway Poetics?” Said another: “I just don’t believe in articulating a poetics based on location, especially this location.” But precisely because a Los Angeles/Southern California poetry anthology would be so problematic may be reason enough to attempt one. I don’t know, maybe not. But I’d like to hear what others think.
Back to Bay Poetics: I love the way it begins, with Brenda Hillman’s brief poem; I love the arrangement, what Stephanie Young calls “the ecology between writers…like overlapping circles with some points and clusters around the edge,” so that Kevin Killian and Dodie Bellamy are right next to each other, and likewise A Tonalists Laura Moriarty and Brent Cunningham (a fie on alphabetization!); and I love reading work by writers like Dan Fisher, whom I’ve long known but never seen in print.
And oh yeah: the Jack Spicer excerpt on the back of the book is a nice touch; it's a relief to turn the book over and see poetry instead of blurbs.
Monday, March 06, 2006
"Mike hung up the phone and reported that in LA, everyone loves Crash, which apparently is set there, and everyone relates to its fractured, disjunct yet ultimately hopeful portrait of black-white race relations. It hits them where they live says he with a disgusted grimace, and where they live is two inches deep."
Not really. I think it's a loathsome, unforgiveable film. I haven't met a single Angeleno who liked Crash, though admittedly I'm not close to many Hollywood types, and the Hollywood types I do know wouldn't see a movie like this anyway. This morning the local NPR station was overwhelmed by folks calling in to Air Talk to complain about how the film is a misrepresentation of the city. Even the host couldn't fathom how anyone in the Academy could vote for this film. Live in Los Angeles awhile and you'll come to understand how poorly this film gets race relations (or much of anything else -- Thom Andersen would eat Crash alive) right.
Friday, March 03, 2006
Thursday, March 02, 2006
San Francisco Poets
Micah Ballard and Cedar Sigo
Friday March 3, 2006 at 8:30pm
Followed by a reception featuring DJ LASR
HIGH ENERGY CONSTRUCTS is pleased to present an evening of "the best minds" of a new generation of San Francisco poets, Micah Ballard and Cedar Sigo, who will read selections from their work. Books and other ephemera by the authors will be available for purchase.
Micah Ballard's poems have appeared in a variety of publications. His recent books include: Bettina Coffin (Red Ant Press), Scenes from the Saragossa Manuscript (Snag Press), In the Kindness of Night (Blue Press), Emblematic (Old Gold), & Negative Capability in the Verse of John Wieners (Auguste Press). He is currently the director of the Humanities B.A. Program at New College of California & is working on a book of collaborations entitled Death Race V.S.O.P.
Cedar Sigo is the author of Goodnight Nurse (Angry Dog Press, 2001). His Selected Writings, published by Ugly Duckling Presse, was originally released in the spring of 2003, and a second edition was printed in 2005. His poems have appeared in The Poker, Yolanda Pipeline's Magazine, New York Nights, The Blind See Only This World:
Poems for John Wieners, 6x6 and Blue Book, among others. Forthcoming is a book of collaborations, Deathrace V.S.O.P. He has studied at the Naropa Institute's Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, and currently lives in San Francisco, where he is the editor of Old Gold\n Press.
HIGH ENERGY CONSTRUCTS is a new Chinatown-based exhibition and performance venue dedicated to the presentation of work by emerging and established visual artists, performers, filmmakers, writers, thinkers, and others who engage or make difficult given notions of form and/or genre. Gallery hours: Thurs. – Sat. 11am – 6pm email@example.com
High Energy Constructs
990 North Hill St. Suite180
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Sunday, February 26, 2006
Come to the first reading of the year at THE SMELL,
Sunday, February 26, 2006
Reading will begin at 6:30 pm.
5 dollars at the door to support visiting poets.
247 S. Main Street,
Between 2nd and 3rd streets in Downtown, Los Angeles.
Readers will be:
Christine Wertheim teaches on the MFA writing program at CalArts. Her recent poetic work has appeared in La Petite Zine, and Séance, (Make Now Press) with new work forthcoming in Five Fingers Review, and in New Messes and noulipo, (both from Make Now). A book of her poemes will be published in January 2007 by Les Figues Press. With Matias Viegener, she organizes an annual two-day conference on contemporary writing at REDCAT in downtown Los Angeles. “Séance,” in 2004, mixed the sexiest formalists and the most formal sex-writers. “noulipo,” in 2005, included members of the Oulipo, plus many of their English speaking heirs. The 2006 event will center on women’s writing.
Elizabeth Treadwell's fifth book, Cornstarch Figurine, will appear soon from Dusie Press of Switzerland. Her earlier works include Chantry (Chax Press) and LILYFOIL +3 (O Books). Rain Taxi says her work "seems at once medieval in its miniaturized exhuberance and modern in its casual entropies." She's director of Small Press Traffic Literary Arts Center in San Francisco and lives in Oakland with her husband and young daughter.
Jennifer Calkins is a poet, evolutionary biologist and the author of A Story of Witchery (Les Figues Press), a book-length narrative poem which poet Amy Gerstler calls "a strange, brave journey in which normalcy, deformity, violation and wholeness are radically realigned." Calkins' shorter work has appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies including 4th Street, Into the Teeth of the Wind, Big Bridge, Ken*Again and Encyclopedia of Animal Behavior; her chapbook, Devil Card, was published by Beard of Bees Press. She lives in Seattle with her family, and works in the Department of Genome Sciences at the University of Washington.
Stephanie Rioux graduated from California Institute of the Arts with an MFA in Writing in Spring 2005. Her writings have appeared in the literary journal nocturnes (re)view, are forthcoming in the journal Trepan, and are self-published on the internet at willowbutton.
Stephanie teaches English and writing to middle school kids in Diamond Bar, California, ghostwrites e-books for infoproductguy.com, and co-curates L.A. Lit with Mathew Timmons. Her main interests currently dwell in poetry, entomology, and embroidery.
Friday, February 24, 2006
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
I’m struggling to keep up with the various blog posts and listserv commentaries on Flarf distributed throughout the internet; my brain fries each time I open the Lucipo listserv archive to find yet another five-page response to Dan Hoy’s Jacket essay. But I trudge on, mainly because I love literary fisticuffs, the discussion is generally intelligent and well-argued, and the humor is pitched a bit higher than Defamer. Lime Tree had a clarifying post several days ago, further enumerating the various ways in which the word “flarf” is used: “it belongs to the zeitgeist, which will do with it as it wills.” And today Silliman extends Gary Sullivan’s initial definition of Flarf by raising several questions about its perceived siblings (Kenneth Goldsmith, Alan Sondheim, Brian Kim Stephans, et al) though they are not really questions so much as already-apparent qualities: “systematization, the use of computers, games, any sort of gimmickry”; “the anti-aesthetic, the deliberately awful, the troubling”; “appropriation of non-literary materials”; and “the role of acquaintance and friendship” in the creation of the work.
And so the genealogy of Flarf and its analogues continues to be (contentiously) mapped. Whether one wants to take that history class or not is a matter of opinion; people will place David Bromige and Jackson Mac Low into the family tree, or Kathy Acker and Tristan Tzara, or Alan Sondheim and the Baroness Freytag-Loringhoven, and that’s fine, but it doesn’t help us understand why this particular anti-aesthetic (and others like it) is rearing its self-proclaimed “awful” head now, among many different groups across various media, and why so many have such a strong reaction to it (and it is most often a reaction). But I think the Flarfists do themselves a disservice when they theorize their own work. Flarf doesn't need a defense because Flarf is indefensible. More troubling to me is the mention of Jeff Koons as a visual arts equivalent to Flarf. I see the connection, and I’ve thought of Koons (and Takashi Murakami and Gregory Crewdson and Lisa Yuskavage and John Currin) in relation to Flarf before too, but I don’t think it’s exactly right. While Koons is certainly corrosive, cute, and cloying, and though he does appropriate (not non-literary but) non-artistic materials and subjects to create his art, he strikes me as too much the individualist, uninterested in community, and not manic or offensive enough to be an appropriate analogue. Another blogger (I forget who it was, but it was in one of his posts at some point over the past year) compared Flarf to the Royal Art Lodge collective, which I think is equally mistaken. Marcel Dzama, Neil Farber, and the other members of the Royal Art Lodge are just not deliberately awful enough. There’s a sentimentality and romantic earnestness to their work that is missing from Flarf (not to say that Flarf isn’t earnest or sentimental in its own way – but that difference is precisely something that should be explored further). And the Royal Art Lodge – well, they’re just not overwhelmingly corrosive or out-of-control. They’re sweet, but not sickly sweet, and not un-P.C.
Closer to Flarf is the work of the comics/art/video/performance collective Paper Rad. Visually, Paper Rad is truly nauseating. Seeing one of their gallery shows or performances is like eating too much Halloween candy after strolling down to the internet bar to down a hamburger milkshake. They make Jeff Koons look highbrow (which he is, in his way – that is, Koons has what people in grad school call, apparently with a straight face, a “critical apparatus”; I’ve found very little in the way of artists statements from the members of Paper Rad; in fact, expecting Paper Rad to have a statement of purpose would be to miss their point). Paper Rad generally uses day-glo and pastel colors, embarrassing and nostalgic but warped versions of cartoon characters from their 80s childhoods (Care Bears, Strawberry Shortcake, Cabbage Patch and Garbage Pail Kids, My Little Pony, Gumby, Garfield, Bart Simpson, Teddy Ruxpin), outdated computer graphics and fonts, perverted narratives, and offensive, fucked-up photography; they mix it all up in a big witch’s cauldron and put it on the wall, or in a book, or on the computer screen. In their animated video, Gumby: Xmaz World View, Gumby takes his horse Pokey to get a hipster haircut for Christmas, but ends up hallucinating at the Farmers Market after getting high on spray paint while trying to graffiti the F-word on a wall. In I Heart Computers, a half-man/half-woman peacebird prays to its crystals after a notebook’s worth of teenage jargon flashes onscreen. Paper Rad also has somewhat of an engagement with poetry. There’s actually a poetry section in their new book, Paper Rad, B.J. And Da Dogs. One untitled poem reads:
WHATS harder than getting
a snowsuit on a drunk toddler?
What if the toddler was petting
a cat, and you thought the cat
was just part of the toddler
I’m on my 7th wife
What am I doing wrong,
Or the bed bong
I;m going to be honest
how do you make refried beans,
is it just mashed potatoes?
What is a haiku?
Beginning to see the see-thru
When I think of candy
I think of being young
at a nudist beach, having the
power to ‘freeze’ time
and sample all the candy.
Is dancing like
I wouldn’t know
For I am the one
who dreams of
This is not so extremely awful by itself, but in the context of the book, where page after page is crude n’ colorful – not to mention the page the poem is printed on, which is pink with some sort of old computer font, or in an art gallery, where the sensory experience is immersive and no speck of white space is left on the walls – the candy-coated awfulness is unbearable. (You can read more poems, handwritten even, and in this sense closer to LRSN's work, on their website). The aesthetics of Paper Rad and Flarf may be worth exploring since they seem on first glance so similar (use of computers/games, the aesthetic of awfulness, appropriation of “wrong” materials, and community interaction) – certainly they have quite distinct social histories, most likely even more divergent than Flarf and the “uncreative writing” of Kenny Goldsmith. Lately I’ve had a little devil whispering in one of my ears. He tells me to take the time to write an essay on these trends in the literary and visual arts. But I have an angel at the other ear. He’s singing that old Beatles song, “…whisper words of wisdom, let it be”. Or maybe it’s Bubble Puppy singing, “In the mist of sassafras, many things will come to pass”.
(More concerning Flarf and its discontents from Joyelle McSweeney)
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Tonight @ Beta-Level, Chinatown, 8pm
Readings by Nico Vassilakis and Amarnath Ravva along with a group reading by the Global Village Collective of “Flag” by Ara Shirinyan from his book Waste the Land forthcoming from Factory School Press.
The Global Village Collective is Harold Abramowitz, Stan Apps, Tova Cooper, Joseph Mosconi, Amarnath Ravva, and Stephanie Rioux.
Amarnath Ravva lives and works in Los Angeles, California. He recently finished his first manuscript, a work of non-fiction called American Canyon, that blends South Indian and Californian history, memoir, poetry, documentary, and compassion. When he is not writing or producing art, he teaches at Glendale Community College. Since 2001 he has served as an advisor for the journal nocturnes (re)view of the literary arts. He has published several poems in Interlope: a Journal of Asian American poetics, nocturnes, The Berkeley Poetry Review and has work forthcoming in the journal Trepan as well as the anthologies Risen from the East: the Poetry of the Non-Western World, and Writing the Lines of our Hands. To learn more about him or his work, visit videopoetics.org.
Nico Vassilakis lives in Seattle. He is a member of the Subtext Collective and co-founder of the Subtext Reading Series in Seattle. Recently, his “concrete films” have been shown at Rencontres Internationales Paris/Berlin, Encuentro Internacional de Poesía Visual, Sonora y Experimental (Argentina ) & ERRATA AND CONTRADICTION :: 2004 :: Dudley House (Harvard). More of his work can be found in Chain, Talisman, 3rd Bed, Ubu, Bird Dog & The Organ. His chapbook, Species Pieces after Perec, is forthcoming from g-o-n-g press. He is publisher of Sub Rosa Press.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Friday night: managed to score tickets to a sold-out screening of Godard’s Histoire(s) du cinéma Parts 1 & 2 at UCLA. A densely layered, poorly translated video, but a sweetly immersive experience. Pure chocolate to a Godard-fan. Several narrators speak at once (in French, in English, in French), words flash on the screen in irregular patterns, and every five minutes Godard proclaims “Histoires du Cinema!” in a nice, thick pompous voice. As a friend said, “at some point text becomes texture.” Sayeth film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum, "Just as Finnegans Wake, the artwork to which Histoire(s) du cinéma seems most comparable, situates itself at some theoretical stage after the end of the English language as we know it, Godard's magnum opus similarly projects itself into the future in order to ask, 'What was cinema?'” Parts 3 & 4 screened Sunday. Alas, I didn’t make it.
Saturday afternoon: a visit to The Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research. Wow. I’m surprised more Angelenos aren’t aware of this incredible community resource. Supposedly the largest archive of its kind in the United States, the library has hundreds and hundreds of flatfiles, shelves and file cabinets stuffed with historical pamphlets, newspapers, books, magazines, recordings, videos, ephemera and personal archives documenting the history of social struggles and movements in greater Los Angeles. Everything from the Charlotta A. Bass Collection (papers of the blacklisted editor and publisher of the oldest African American newspaper in LA and the first African American woman to run for Vice-President in the United States – on the Progressive Party ticket) to old IWW recruitment films from the 1930s to an audio recording of Huey P. Newton’s birthday party in 1969. Browse their website and consider donating or stopping by when you’re next in Angeltown.
Saturday night: a quick run by Kordansky Gallery in Chinatown to check out Nicolau Vergueiro’s second solo show, A Thousand Openings.
Nicolau Verguiero, A Thousand Openings
Later Saturday night: ran across town from Chinatown to Venice just in time to catch Jennifer Moxley and Aaron Kunin at Beyond Baroque. Kunin read poems from his book Folding Ruler Star in what sounded to me like a sinister voice, but a friend described it as the voice one might hear on an airport intercom (which is sinister in its own way). It was great to hear Kunin’s poems live, which actually strengthened them in my estimation. The voice in my head was much more timid. The work Moxley presented, in manuscript, was more narrative than I’d heard from her before (one piece was actually a memoir), but the new prose poems, which have lately turned up in journals here and there, may have been responsible for my Fourieran dreams later that night.
Later still Saturday night: out with friends to a dive bar in Atwater Village. Distracted by a girl playing darts. I couldn’t decide if she was a complete stranger or an old friend from college, and didn’t want to risk the embarrassment of saying, “Hey aren’t you…” and being mistaken. Meanwhile, over a few beers, Stan Apps explained how the Fed manages to make the wealthy even wealthier through a convoluted system of borrowing and lending.
Sunday afternoon: The Sunset Chronicles, Part III, in which wooden citizenry dreams of vegetable flight and abandoned movie palaces project the ghost life of marionettes. Or a really good puppet show.
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, a predecessor to Mickey (once Mortimer, until Walt's wife requested a less pompous marque for their mouse) was traded by NBC/Universal to Disney/ESPN for sportscaster Al Michaels. “Yes, the prodigal rabbit has come home,” said John Canemaker, director of Animation Studies at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. “I think it’s really kind of poetic in a way, how it all has come around.”
Saturday, February 11, 2006
Tonight, 7:30 PM @ Beyond Baroque, Venice, CA
Native Californian JENNIFER MOXLEY is the author of Often Capital (Flood 2005), The Sense Record and other poems (Edge 2002; Salt 2003), Imagination Verses (Tender Buttons 1996; Salt 2003), and several chapbooks. Her poem “Behind the Orbits” was chosen by Robert Creeley for inclusion in The Best American Poetry 2002. She is the poetry editor for The Baffler magazine and a contributing editor of The Poker magazine. Since 1999 she has lived in Maine, where she teaches creative writing and literature at the University of Maine. AARON KUNIN is the author of Folding Ruler Star (Fence Books, 2005), a collection of small poems about shame. He recently moved to California, where he is an assistant professor of negative anthropology at Pomona College.
Friday, February 10, 2006
In the past, politicians promised to create a better world. They had different ways of achieving this, but their power and authority came from the optimistic visions they offered their people. Those dreams failed and today people have lost faith in ideologies. Increasingly, politicians are seen simply as managers of public life, but now they have discovered a new role that restores their power and authority. Instead of delivering dreams, politicians now promise to protect us: from nightmares.
They say that they will rescue us from dreadful dangers that we cannot see and do not understand. And the greatest danger of all is international terrorism, a powerful and sinister network with sleeper cells in countries across the world, a threat that needs to be fought by a War on Terror. But much of this threat is a fantasy, which has been exaggerated and distorted by politicians. It's a dark illusion that has spread unquestioned through governments around the world, the security services and the international media. This is a series of films about how and why that fantasy was created, and who it benefits.
At the heart of the story are two groups: the American neoconservatives and the radical Islamists. Both were idealists who were born out of the failure of the liberal dream to build a better world, and both had a very similar explanation of what caused that failure. These two groups have changed the world, but not in the way that either intended. Together, they created today's nightmare vision of a secret organised evil that threatens the world, a fantasy that politicians then found restored their power and authority in a disillusioned age. And those with the darkest fears became the most powerful. (From the opening narration to The Power of Nightmares).The tone is conspiratorial, though I’m damned if I can find a real conspiracy; it all seems true enough. The supposedly daring contention is that al Qaeda is not a coherent organization but rather an idea (meme?) adopted by isolated terrorist groups, and that the threat of terrorism is largely a fantasy. (A portion of the program, which was produced in 2004, points out that despite the constant threat of terrorist attacks in
One other point: Curtis seems to have been influenced quite a bit by the Bay Area underground filmmaker (and “media archaeologist”) Craig Baldwin. Both use found pop-cultural imagery and offbeat soundtracks; but
Watch The Power of Nightmares online:
Part I: Baby It's Cold Outside
Part II: The Phantom Victory
Part III: The Shadows in the Cave
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Poet Jen Hofer opened the doors (and backyard gates) of her Cypress Park home Sunday night for the second installment of her Moving Word poetry and film series, co-curated by filmmaker David Gatten and featuring the work of several local luminaries. This must be the largest crowd any up-and-coming (heck, even established) LA writer or filmmaker will ever see. Jen has an invitation list in the hundreds and, unlike most salons, this one welcomes gate-crashers. The notoriously hard-to-park neighborhood was jam-packed with film, poetry and art lovers from far-flung burgs like
Filmmaker Rebecca Baron screened her early experimental short The Idea of North (1995). From the New York Film Festival website: In the guise of chronicling the final months of three polar explorers marooned on an ice floe a century ago, Baron's film investigates the limitations of images and other forms of record as means of knowing the past and the paradoxic interplay of film time, historical time, real time and the fixed moment of the photograph. Marrying matter-of-fact voiceover and allusive sound fragments, evidence and illustration, in Baron's words “meaning is set adrift.”
Andrew Choate read some funny Flarf-esque poetry (though I don’t believe he used Google to create the work) and he also held up hand-made signs with two-word poems written on them. I remember one of them: Ladycat Cadylac.
Susan Simpson screened a devastating new short, Boll Weevil Days (2005). Simpson, a puppeteer, created all the buildings and puppets in this short film. The plot dramatizes a nuclear or terrorist blast of some sort in
Maggie Nelson read from her book Jane: A Murder.
Amar Ravva performed a multimedia memoir (a video played behind him as he read) entitled
I’ll try to post more frequently from here on out, I promise.