Saturday, October 18, 2008

Errant Bodies has been publishing books and CDs on sound, auditory issues, spatial arts and design, and cultures of experimental performance and art since 1995. Since this time, it has been at the forefront of developing and supporting the diverse attitudes toward the emerging field of sound art, contemporary experimental music, and auditory culture. In addition, Errant Bodies aims to remain sensitive to the specifics of location and the co-productive details born from cultural work and its place through site-based research, actions and projects.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Man Behind Scrambled Hackz
Eliot Van Buskirk 04.17.06
I saw a video the other day that really stood out from the rest of the links making the rounds.
It depicts a man demonstrating software that appears to parse what he's saying fast enough to reassemble the same words by pulling and reordering bits from a recorded Michael Jackson interview. The result: Jackson appears to speak the same sentence right back to him.
The man goes on to explain how the software behind this process works, and his video closes with a live performance of the software in which a performer appears to employ the beat-box method to control the playback of audio and video on a large video screen behind him, in front of what I can only imagine must be a dazzled crowd.

in Wired.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip

The debut single from Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip 'Thou Shalt Always Kill'

Poetic polemic by hip, UK author, Patrick Neate, first shown on Channel 4.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

German Book Trade chooses German artist Anselm Kiefer to be the recipient of this year’s Peace Prize

Thanks to Johannes for this:

The Board of Trustees of the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade has chosen German artist Anselm Kiefer to be the recipient of this year’s Peace Prize. The award ceremony will take place during the Frankfurt Book Fair on Sunday, October 19, 2008 in the Church of St. Paul in Frankfurt, Germany.

The Board of Trustees issued the following statement with regard to their choice: “The German Publishers’ and Booksellers’ Association has chosen to award the 2008 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade to Anselm Kiefer. In so doing, the association and its members have chosen to honor an artist of global importance who has consistently sought to confront us with a disturbing moral message of that which is ruinous and volatile. Kiefer appeared at an ideal moment in history to transcend the post-war dictate of non-committal and non-concrete representation. In many ways, Kiefer acted like an ingenious and conscious conqueror, seizing upon the means of an expressive, texture-rich form of painting and transferring these means – much like the spoils of war – to his own world of images. At the very center of his work stands an artistic present that is eroded and shattered, one that is presented with speechlessness and an extremely short-tongued rhetoric. The incredibly strong resonance that Kiefer’s work has received results from his ability to create a visual vocabulary for both timeless and acute themes and thereby simultaneously transform the viewer into a reader. The extent to which Kiefer deals with literature and poetry is demonstrated not only by his installations, which constantly allude to great works. Kiefer also made the book itself – the book as a form – into a decisive vehicle of expression. His monumental lead works appear as shields against a defeatism that dares to deny a future to books and reading.”


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Radio Territories

Relay races on air / searching for sonic grit
Flirting radios / your ear is a delicate organ
Transmitting language / but, or, this, no, something angular

with Brandon LaBelle, Julien Ottavi, James Webb, London streets and certain studio guests

Broadcasting on Resonance FM, London, 104.4 fm

April 15, 16 & 17th, 5 - 6pm

Monday, March 24, 2008


edited by Douglas Kahn and Gregory Whitehead, The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts-London, 1994

(book review)

Although a couple of challenging inventions of our age have been related to the transmission and recording of the sound, our understanding of modernism, the avant-garde and postmodernism does not seem to have been transformed by the sound. Artists did not take advantage of the new technologies; and in fact contributions to the art of the sound are diverse, and historically incoherent. WIRELESS IMAGINATION/SOUND, RADIO, AND THE AVANT-GARDE is a brilliant collection of original essays and newly translated documents on the art of the sound composed with the aim of breaking the "deafening silence" which surrounds the sound, as the editors claim.

Reviewed here. is the medium of creative ambiguity.

"I begin with the idea of radio as an adventure, and part of the idea of an adventure is that you don't always know precisely where you are. To my ears, a good radio program invites the listener to navigate. Sometimes the waters get choppy, or the fog rolls in. I always remind myself that the first community of radio artists was a community of maritime distress and rescue, the community of S-O-S."

"My role is to open up a space of play between fact and fiction, certainly not to fool anybody. Not deception -- but play. For example, take Ice Music, in which a sextet of trumpets are frozen into an ice tray, then dropped into a glass of selzer to create a brass choir. Well, the dream of freezing sound is an old one, and it pops up in Rabelais and elsewhere, but it does not carry much water as science. The humor is in taking the illusion seriously enough to inhabit the conventions of a "real" discovery."

"Radio is at root a PULSE medium, it's the very nature of soundwaves. My own roots are in music and writing, so radio seemed like a lovely place to dance. I use music to set tone, certainly, but also to heighten the humor, create counterpoint or cross-reference. Listeners are trained to hear radio as a combination of Words and Music, so once again, why fight it? In a piece like Brain Mash, it's crucial to communicate the essential ingredient of TIME, if you aim to transform mashed Idaho tubers into living human brains."

"I've always believed deeply in the utopian side of radio, the wonderful power to create these temporary communities, among listeners you can never entirely anticipate or predict, very democratic and even random. The other side of radio flourishes, I call it radio Thanatos -- radio death. Radio was born as call for help (S.O.S), yet swiftly became a tool for destruction, whether in the rants of tyrants or, quite literally, as a weapon. But we should never underestimate or abandon the radio that is close to the beat of life, the rhythm of community, what I call Radio Eros."

Gregory Whitehead in conversation.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Opening lines
(from the poetry of WS Graham):

Imagine a forest

I leave this at your ear for when you wake

Whatever you've come here to get

Shut up, shut up. There's nobody here.

Meanwhile surely there must be something to say

I called today, Peter, and you were away.

This morning I am ready if you are

Gently disintegrate me

Just for the sake of recovering

I have my yellow boots on to walk.

Take Matthew Sweeney's workshop in dramatic poetry (from where these openings are taken) here.

Friday, March 14, 2008

"The elements of poetry are letters, syllables, words, sentences. Poetry arises from the playing off of these elements against each other. Meaning is only essential if it is to be used as one such factor. I play off sense against nonsense. I prefer nonsense, but that is a purely personal matter. I pity nonsense, because until now it has been so neglected in the making of art, and that's why I love it."

Kurt Schwitters. from Merz

Check out Slim Gaillard here.
section curated by Jerome Rothenberg

The breakthroughs of the last 100 years in poetry and elsewhere have been marked by new approaches to language and performance. Largely this has been the work of several generations of experimental writers and performers, many of them now archived and available thru Ubuweb and related web sites. It fell to some of us, starting with forerunners like Tristan Tzara and Antonin Artaud, to track related but traditional approaches over a wide range of once impenetrable cultures throughout the world. In my own work I was able to bring some of these lines together in gatherings of the 1960s and 1970s like Technicians of the Sacred and Shaking the Pumpkin, as well as in the magazine Alcheringa that I co-edited for several years with Dennis Tedlock. The name that we gave this enterprise, as it applied to the world’s deep cultures – those surviving in situ as well as those that had vanished except for transcriptions in books or recordings from earlier decades – was ethnopoetics.

In the present Ubuweb collection of ethnopoetic openings, it’s our intention to build a sampler of what we take to be the second great breakthrough of the modernist poetry project. The search here is for a range of poetries outside the domain of customarily accepted literature. In particular we’re interested, in the spirit of other segments of Ubuweb, in soundings and visionings that are the traditional and often culturally acceptable counterparts to what in our own surroundings have been seen and heard as radical, even disturbing departures from conventional practice. In exploring these we will also be mindful of occasions on which the avant-garde experimental line has merged with or deliberately drawn from other culturally specific traditions.

We proceed in the spirit of Gertrude Stein, often quoted by me: The exciting thing about all this is that as it is new it is old and as it is old it is new, but now we have come to be in our way which is an entirely different way.

- Jerome Rothenberg, October 2002

View materials here.
Sound Poetry - An Historical Discography (1978)
Michael Gibb

(from Sound Poetry: A Catalogue, edited by Steve McCaffery and bpNichol, Underwich Editions, Toronto, 1978. Originally published in KONTEXTSOUND, Kontext Publications, Amsterdam 1977, revised & updated by bpNichol)

Details here.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Amazon’s e-reader, the Kindle, reviewed

Novelist Stephen Amidon is surprised by his test drive.
From The Sunday Times
March 9, 2008

... It is also possible to envision the Kindle causing a change in the nature of the literary text itself. Instead of the traditional flat accumulation of letters, one can imagine a page that is riven with all manner of links to Google or Wikipedia. The novel will wind up looking like your average blog. For instance, the novelist mentions that his hero is peering down into the Grand Canyon, and the reader need only click on those words to be given the same panoramic view. Or listen to a snippet of a symphony, or watch archival news footage. Or even, perish the thought, text a question or a critical response to the author.

Prospects such as this, rather than in the actual experience of reading the Kindle, are what have caused my reservations to grow. The beauty and genius of the traditional book is that it is a thing unto itself. It is self-contained. Its limitations are its strength. It has covers, and between them is an entire world created by the interplay between the author’s imagination and the reader’s. Once you connect that autonomous world to the shifting, boundless, hyperactive universe of cyberspace, you run the very real risk of severing that magical bond of imagination. Give the reader a photographic vista of the Grand Canyon and he no longer has to imagine it. By opening up the book to the limitless possibilities of the digital age, Amazon just might be risking closing it for good.

Read full review.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Charles Simic's Dime-Store Alchemy: The Art of Joseph Cornell
reviewed by Guy Rotella

Charles Simic, Dime-Store Alchemy: The Art of Joseph Cornell.
Hopewell, New Jersey: The Ecco Press, 1992. 77 pp. $19.95.

"It goes without saying."
So nothing stays. But husks remain. As in "Deserted Perch." What's fled or flown can be evoked: the solace soothes; it menaces, too.
Nostalgic, enigmatic, even coy, Joseph Cornell's recuperating, scarifying work has urged a pride of poets to comment or verse. Octavio Paz wrote "Objects and Apparitions" for Cornell, calling his cased and uncontained constructions "cages for infinity." Elizabeth Bishop translated Paz's poem and made a "Cornell box" herself. In "Pantoum," John Ashbery enlists Cornell with other "connoisseurs of oblivion" who inhabit our "short, brittle" days. And Stanley Kunitz admires a Cornell work— "The Crystal Cage"—for its "basket of gifts," its "snowbox of wonders."

Read the full review here.
Non-Linear Adding Machine
Ekphrasis: Image and Text
Vessela Valiavitcharska

It’s not easy to separate the visual from the textual in discussions of communication. While some have argued for “a cognitive divide between oral and visual cultures” represented by the progression from the visual to the textual, it is far more likely that the two modes are connected, and that “cultures freely borrow and adapt” from visual and textual methods of representation “when the need arises.” One conversation about the relationship between the visual and the textual concerns ekphrasis, commonly defined as the poetic description of a work of art. Regretfully, this popular definition of the term disregards the long and rich rhetorical tradition of ekphrasis, which has been understood as the rhetorically charged description of anything that can be perceived visually or evoked mentally.


Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Ekphrasis through the Ages

Introduction: Eight Ways of Looking at Ekphrasis

by Shadi Bartsch and Jaś Elsner

Words about an image, itself often embedded in a larger text: ekphrasis today has become such an important element of scholarly approaches to the novel, to epic, to the Romantics, and even to genres beyond the literary, that it may be difficult to remember its relative obscurity of a quarter-century ago. Once skimmed over as superfluous, or derided as rhetorical showmanship, ekphrasis now seems to present countless opportunities for the discovery of meaning: it has been variously treated as a mirror of the text, a mirror in the text, a mode of specular inversion, a further voice that disrupts or extends the message of the narrative, a prefiguration for that narrative (whether false or true) in its suggestions.


In the middle of the Dial-A-Poem experience wqas the giant self-consuming media machine choosing you as some of its food, which also lets you get your hands on the controls because you've made a new system of communicating poetry. The newspaper, magazine, TV and radio coverage had the effect of making everyone want to call the Dial-A-Poem. We got up to the maximum limit of the equipment and stayed there. 60,000 calls a week and it was totally great. The busiest time was 9 AM to 5 PM, so one figured that all those people sitting at desks in New York office buildings spend a lot of time on the telephone, then the second busiest time was 8:30 PM to 11:30 PM was the after-dinner crowd, then the California calls and those tripping on acid or couldn't sleep 2 AM to 6 PM. So using an existing communications system we established a new poet-audience relationship.

Dial-A-Poem began at the Architectural League of New York in January 1969 with 10 telephone lines and ran for 5 months, during which time 1,112,337 calls were received. It continuted at MOMA in July 1970 with 12 telephone lines and ran for 2 and a half months and 200,087 calls were received. It was at The Musuem of Contemporary Art, Chicago for 6 weeks in November 1969 and since then has cropped up everywhere. This was with equipment working at maximum capacity and sometimes jamming the entire exchange. At MOMA, the 12 lines were each connected to an automatic answering set, which holds a pre-recorded message. Someone calling got randomly one of 12 different poems, which were changed daily. There were around 700 selections of 55 poets.

On this LP of Dial-A-Poem Poets are 27 poets. The records are a selection of highlights of poetry that spontaneously grew over 20 years from 1953 to 1972, mostly in America, representing many aspects and different approaches to dealing with words and sound. The poets are from the New York School, Bolinas and West Coast Schools, Concrete Poetry, Beat Poetry, Black Poetry and Movement Poetry.

John Giorno, August 1972

Read more and hear Dial-A-Poem here.
Ekphrasis and the Other


This article reproduced as part of
the Romantic Circles Electronic Edition of Shelley's "Medusa"
by kind permission of the University of Chicago Press.

"Ekphrasis and the Other" by W. J. T. Mitchell from PICTURE THEORY published by The University of Chicago Press, copyright 1994 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.
Picture Theory: Essays on Verbal and Visual Representation. - book reviews

by Brian Wallis

One of the great themes in Western culture is the contest between word and image. From Leonardo's Paragone through Lessing's Laocoon to the writings of Barthes and Derrida, theorists have struggled to define the different properties of verbal and visual descriptive systems. Seeking ways of distinguishing these systems, some have attempted to disentangle texts from pictures while others have admitted that the two are inextricable. But for many recent critics, this dualistic method of creating categories and granting greater or lesser value to one or the other is itself historically specific, linked to the classificatory modes of modernist ideology. In much postmodern theory about representation, the earlier polarized thinking about words and images has been replaced by a more relativistic approach--one that has resulted in radically decentered and antiformalistic reconsiderations of, among other things, the meaning of realism, authorship and identity. Thus, despite the extensive literature on representation in recent critical theory, the issue is rarely stated--as it is in W.J.T. Mitchell's Picture Theory--in terms of the old word-image dualism. But Mitchell makes a strong case for the argument that this dichotomy is worth revisiting.

Read review.

Friday, February 22, 2008

ASPECT is a biannual DVD magazine of new media art. The mission of the publication is to distribute and archive works of time-based art. Each issue highlights artists working in new or experimental media, whose works are best documented in video or sound.


Due by March 26, 2008—ASPECT: The Chronicle of New Media Art, a biannual dvd publication, is currently accepting submissions of work best documented in a time-based format for Volume 12: Vital. This issue will explore that which is essential, grave, indispensable, and/or critical to existence.

The staff of ASPECT is asking curators, art critics, and members of the contemporary art community to help assemble and comment on works for the next issue by submitting a work of art on which they wish to provide audio commentary. Due to the format of the publication, the criteria for selection will include both the qualifications of the commentator and the quality of the work submitted. Audio recordings of the commentary will be assembled after the submissions have been selected.

Submissions should include:
- Video documentation of a work or small group of works by a single artist (no more than 15 minutes in length)
- A brief (100 word) statement regarding the submitted work
- Resume of the artist
- Contact information for the commentator and artist
- Resume of the commentator
- Brief notes outlining the contents of the proposed commentary
- If you would like us to return your materials, please include a SASE. Otherwise, we will keep your work on file for further consideration.

Submissions must be received by March 26, 2008 and sent to:
ASPECT: The Chronicle of New Media Art
46 Waltham Street, suite 103
Boston, MA 02118

All artists will be contacted via email regarding their submission no later than April 28, 2008
Distribution systems

See online panel discussion at MIT World here:

Reproduction, Mimicry, Critique and Distribution Systems in Visual Art

Bill Arning
Curator, List Visual Arts Center, MIT

Michael Mittelman: Artist, and Founder and editor, ASPECT: The Chronicle of New Media Art
Aspect website

Tony Cokes: Artist and Researcher, Brown University
Cokes' Brown website

Andres Laracuente: Artist
Online gallery site with Laracuente's art


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Lawrence Weiner, Vienna, 1991, Wiener Festwochen, Flakturm im Esterházypark. Photo by Christian Wachter.

Conceptual art is a visual art that is not retinal, or at least resists appealing to sight at the expense of thought. It often manifests itself in language that assumes the entire burden of compelling the viewer to read the signs on gallery walls. Conceptual art persists and is not amenable to the merchandising that subsequent decades have brought about. Whether they know it or not, formalists of the 1960s presupposed the early modern achievement of Russian and French artists and writers. Conceptual artists as well show the formal and structural bias of manipulating language operationally. Sites formerly intended for live events or “actions” now allow mental operations to substitute for physical behavior. Lawrence Weiner is among the most respected in the loose federation of artists that includes Robert Barry, Douglas Hueber and Joseph Kosuth, and extends to Sol LeWitt, who remains a key figure in artistic formalism. Weiner’s language refers to works both specific and general. In sites that are specific, yet treated categorically, Weiner’s words occupy the book, the gallery, the street, the stage. His words and work act as cultural irritants wherever they appear. Ranging from mildly to aggressively interventionist, Weiner’s verbal art uses formalism to drive a wedge into the cultural status quo.

Read Lawrence Weiner by Marjorie Welish
in Bomb Issue 54 Winter 1996, ART

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Random poetry almost fulfills the dream of Gilles Deleuze, who imagines an ideal game of chance, one whose rules find themselves generated by, and subjected to, chance itself. Such a game results in an aimless outcome so futile that we dismiss the game as a nonsensical dissipation of time—an atelic, if not asemic, activity, not unlike the daydreaming seen in modern, poetic theory: "only thought finds it possible to affirm all chance" for "[i]f one tries to play this game other than in thought, nothing happens, and if one tries to produce a result other than the work of art, nothing is produced"; hence, "[t]his game, which can only exist in thought and which has no other result than the work of art is also that by which thought and art […] disturb […] reality." Only the artisan and the thinker ever dare to play this game because, in it, "there is nothing but victories for those who know how […] to affirm and ramify chance, instead of dividing it in order to dominate it, in order to wager, in order to win."

Random Poetry 06
Hugo Ball's "Karawane"

Marie Osmond performing from memory (:32)

And here it is on You Tube (with text).
UbuWeb at AWP

... the links to the works on my playlist for the panel entitled "Listen to This"….
The Poetry Foundation has a section on Random Poetry. Here is an example :

Random Poetry 07


First utterance of Talking Popcorn
by Nina Katchadourian

Nina Katchadourian is a conceptual artist, famous for her eclectic projects, some of which involve her mending a spiderweb or sorting a bookshelf. Often her work consists of either a whimsical intervention into a geographic mapping or an uninvited modification of an ecological terrain. She might, for example, dissect a travel map, extracting all the landmass, while retaining, intact, all the highways—or she might augment a car alarum, installing a new bullhorn, which screeches out a birdcall instead.

Talking Popcorn is a sculpture that consists of a popcorn-machine hooked up to a microphone that transmits these signals to a hidden laptop—one equipped to convert these sounds according to the dictates of Morse Code, after which the computer translates these dits and dahs into a series of English letters for vocalization by its own robot-voice. The artist goes on to transcribe each message from this "oracle," preserving the popcorn in a vacuum-capsule for display alongside these texts.

Katchadourian remarks that "Talking Popcorn blurts out words in many different languages, but ultimately it speaks a 'language' very much its own"—and she has even gone so far as to bronze the first four kernels of popcorn generated by the machine, in order to preserve its inital, spoken utterance—the word "WE" (dit dah dah, dit). Her machine almost seems to literalize the notion of the "soundbite," insofar as each phoneme erupts by chance from the void, only to leave behind its own edible casing.

Katchadourian has, in effect, built an "echo chamber," in which we see letters collide or disband at random, doing so in a way reminiscent of the clinamen described by Lucretius, who draws an analogy between atoms and words in order to suggest that all substances and all utterances result from minute nuclei, erupting and swerving into each other as they fall through the void. Each letter becomes a fugitive particle that might appear, change, or vanish, depending upon such a randomized trajectory….

Monday, January 28, 2008

Dieter Roth
«Black page with holes (poetry machine)»

From Media Art Net:

Dieter Roth developed this piece as a contribution to the Fluxus publication «An Anthology,» which appeared in 1963. When the book was first planned in 1961, he sent to George Maciunas a black page with holes in it and the following instructions for use: «please take the sheet with holes in, but do it like this: take any printed matter, for instance pages of book, catalogs, logocats, folders, posters, newspaper, emballage cut in size of fluxus make the holes there in to through, put in to fluxus, loose (as the black sheet) would have been; loose, i mean : don’t take black sheet, take pages of book, catalogs, logocats, folders, posters, newspaper, emballage, tricotage camouflage, cut as fluxus in size, make the holes therein, put into it fluxum, i mean put the loose sheet then into fluxus.» In other words: the black page is intended as a master for perforating found printed material through which changing views will then be available. On publication, «An Anthology» included a «white page with holes» but not the associated printed matter.

«Black page with holes (poetry machine)»

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


At all events my own essays and dissertations about love

and its endless pain and perpetual pleasure will be

known and understood by all of you who read this and

talk or sing or chant about it to your worried friends

or nervous enemies. Love is the question and the subject

of this essay. We will commence with a question:

does steak love lettuce? This question is implacably

hard and inevitably difficult to answer.


Monday, January 21, 2008

Language as Sculpture, Words as Clay

Published: October 21, 2007, The New York Times


In a recent interview at his temporary studio, as the construction drill droned on outside, Mr. Weiner, a tall, thin man with a trademark flowing Moses beard, seemed not to notice the noise anymore, speaking in a quiet, smoke-deepened basso-profundo. He said that while people had gradually accepted a wide range of nontraditional materials as being within the realm of sculpture — Mr. Andre’s plain, stacked fire bricks or metal tiles; Dan Flavin’s fluorescent tubes; Bruce Nauman’s painted body — using only language as a material seemed to be going way too far. (Mr. Weiner’s actual way of describing this, evoking his years on the docks, can’t be printed in this newspaper.)

But his use of language was not intended to be confrontational, he said. It was democratic, to make art that was open-ended and able to adapt easily to different contexts and even different cultures. He has made work in dozens of countries, translated into dozens of languages.

“If it’s successful, the work really becomes part of people’s lives,” Mr. Weiner said, relating, as he rolled a cigarette from pouch of tobacco, a story of a late-night cab ride in Vienna. The cabdriver talked proudly about one of Mr. Weiner’s pieces in that city — the words “Smashed to Pieces (in the Still of the Night)” painted in huge letters atop a Nazi-era military tower in 1991 — not knowing or caring, really, who made the work and certainly not realizing that the creator was in the back seat of his cab.


Here he stood. Here he sat. Here he knelt. Here he lay. Here he moved, to and fro, from the door to the window, from the window to the door; from the window to the door, from the door to the window; from the fire to the bed, from the bed to the fire; from the bed to the fire, from the fire to the bed; from the door to the fire, from the fire to the door; from the fire to the door, from the door to the fire; from the window to the bed, from the bed to the window; from the bed to the window, from the window to the bed; from the fire to the window, from the window to the fire; from the window to the fire, from the fire to the window; from the bed to the door, from the door to the bed; from the door to the bed, from the bed to the door; from the door to the window, from the window to the fire; from the fire to the window, from the window to the door; from the window to the door, from the door to the bed; from the bed to the door, from the door to the window; from the fire to the bed, from the bed to the window; from the window to the bed, from the bed to the fire; from the bed to the fire, from the fire to the door; from the door to the fire, from the fire to the bed; from the door to the window, from the window to the bed; from the bed to the window, from the window to the door; from the window to the door, from the door to the fire; from the fire to the door, from the door to the window; from the fire to the bed, from the bed to the door; from the door to the bed, from the bed to the fire; from the bed to the fire, from the fire to the window; from the window to the fire, from the fire to the bed; from the door to the fire, from the fire to the window; from the window to the fire, from the fire to the door; from the window to the bed, from the bed to the door; from the door to the bed, from the bed to the window; from the fire to the window, from the window to the bed; from the bed to the window, from the window to the fire; from the bed to the door, from the door to the fire; from the fire to the door, from the door to the bed.

The room was furnished solidly and with taste.

Samuel Beckett, from Watt [Olympia Press, 1953]
introduced and edited by Craig Douglas Dworkin

Poetry expresses the emotional truth of the self. A craft honed by especially sensitive individuals, it puts metaphor and image in the service of song.

Or at least that's the story we've inherited from Romanticism, handed down for over 200 years in a caricatured and mummified ethos - and as if it still made sense after two centuries of radical social change. It's a story we all know so well that the terms of its once avant-garde formulation by William Wordsworth are still familiar, even if its original manifesto tone has been lost: "I have said," he famously reiterated, "that poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings; it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility."

But what would a non-expressive poetry look like? A poetry of intellect rather than emotion? One in which the substitutions at the heart of metaphor and image were replaced by the direct presentation of language itself, with "spontaneous overflow" supplanted by meticulous procedure and exhaustively logical process? In which the self-regard of the poet's ego were turned back onto the self-reflexive language of the poem itself? So that the test of poetry were no longer whether it could have been done better (the question of the workshop), but whether it could conceivably have been done otherwise.

Picture Writing

[I]t is quite beyond doubt that the development of writing will not indefinitely be bound by the claims to power of a chaotic academic and commercial activity; rather, quantity is approaching the moment of a qualitative leap when writing, advancing ever more deeply into the graphic regions of its new eccentric figurativeness, will take sudden possession of an adequate factual content.
In this picture writing, poets, who will now as in earliest times be first and foremost experts in writing, will be able to participate only by mastering the fields in which (quite unobtrusively) it is being constructed: the statistical and technical diagram. With the foundation of an international moving script they will renew their authority in the life of peoples, and find a role awaiting them in comparison to which all the innovative aspiration of rhetoric will reveal themselves as antiquated day-dreams.

Walter Benjamin, 'Attested Auditor' in One-Way Street, Selected Writings, p. 456-7, OWS p. 63f
Fools lament the decay of criticism. … Criticism is a matter of correct distancing…. Today the most real, the mercantile gaze into the heart of things is the advertisement. It abolishes the space where contemplation moved and all but hits us between the eyes with things as a car, growing to gigantic proportions, careens at us out of a film screen. … [P]eople whom nothing moves or touches any longer are taught to cry again by films. … What, in the end, makes advertisements so superior to criticism? Not what the moving red neon sign says—but the fiery pool reflecting it in the asphalt."

Walter Benjamin, 'This Space for Rent' (in One-Way Street, Selected Writings, p. 476)
Stephen Mallarmé: "Un Coup de Dés / jamais n' abolira le Hasard" ("The Dice Throw / Will Never abrogate Chance" 1914)

The typographical exaggeration of "Un Coup de Dés...." was a calculated attempt to force the viewer to encounter blank page space as a compositional element within an illusionistic picture plane. "Un Coup de Dés...."effectively reduced the legibility of the written word to that of a typographic pattern, text is marginalised to such an extent that the viewer is forced both literally and metaphorically to read between the lines. The layout and graphic overprinting of "Un Coup de Dés..." deliberately renders text illegible as naturalistic or figural narrative and this is confirmed by Mallarmé's description of the work as a constellation or shipwreck.

from Concrete Poetry and Conceptual Art: A Spectre at the Feast?
by Neil Powell
Lawrence Weiner

Essay by Lynne Cooke

Since 1967 Lawrence Weiner's work has been formulated by recourse to language rather than the more conventional idioms of painting or sculpture. In language, Weiner found a medium and tool for representing material relationships in the external world in as objective a manner as possible, one that could eliminate all references to authorial subjectivity—all traces of the artist's hand, his skill, or his taste. "ART IS NOT A METAPHOR UPON THE RELATIONSHIP OF HUMAN BEINGS TO OBJECTS & OBJECTS TO OBJECTS IN RELATION TO HUMAN BEINGS BUT A REPRESENTATION OF AN EMPIRICAL EXISTING FACT," he argues. "IT DOES NOT TELL THE POTENTIAL & CAPABILITIES OF AN OBJECT (MATERIAL) BUT PRESENTS A REALITY CONCERNING THAT RELATIONSHIP."1 This often-quoted contention is spelled out in characteristically succinct spare terms: it posits the allusive and hypothetical as the negative of that which is, an objectively observable or verifiable concrete reality.

Word Salad

The Dadaists attached much less importance to the sales value of their work than to its usefulness for contemplative immersion. The studied degradation of their material was not the least of their means to achieve this uselessness. Their poems are “word salad” containing obscenities and every imaginable waste product of language. The same is true of their paintings, on which they mounted buttons and tickets. What they intended and achieved was a relentless destruction of the aura of their creations, which they branded as reproductions with the very means of production.

Walter Benjamin (1936), from "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction"
The Well-Shaped Phrase as Art
Published: November 16, 2007, New York Times

...Be grateful, then, for Lawrence Weiner’s mind-stretching 40-year retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art, which is respite, wake-up call and purification rite all in one. It should be required viewing for anyone interested in today’s art, especially people who frequent contemporary art auctions.

A joint effort of the Whitney and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, this profuse exhibition has been organized by Donna De Salvo, the Whitney’s chief curator, and Ann Goldstein, the Los Angeles museum’s senior curator. It honors a Conceptual artist who has made history, and plenty of memorable artworks, while influencing Barbara Kruger, Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Tony Feher, among others. Yet Mr. Weiner has largely and quite deliberately skipped over the production and marketing of salable, portable, immutable objects.

The show consists primarily of cryptic yet suggestive phrases in large letters, splayed across walls, ceiling beams and occasionally floors, that conjure up various physical situations but often leave to your imagination the objects or the scale involved. “A Turbulence Induced Within a Body of Water” could be hands splashing in a bathtub or a tanker churning waves behind it. “Encased By + Reduced to Rust” evokes a crumbling object, but it could also be a soul or an artist’s talent. (And there is that twist of “rust” where you expect “dust.”)


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Dartington College of Arts specialises in teaching, practice and research in contemporary performance arts. This includes practices that may not conventionally be thought of as ‘performance’ arts but which can have a very close relationship with performance practices and/or which can take on innovative approaches when developed in an environment of performance. This has been the context for writing at Dartington. When designing a new undergraduate writing award for a 1994 start we chose to adopt as a name for the award and for a new field of writing a term that was already in use at the College: Performance Writing.


Friday, January 11, 2008

Pierre Bayard's How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read is an invaluable guide to subverting the reading classes, says Toby Lichtig

Sunday January 6, 2008
The Observer

How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read
by Pierre Bayard; translated by Jeffrey Mehlman
Granta £12, pp185

Pierre Bayard is a Paris-based professor of French literature. As such, he is a practised charlatan, a literary bullshitter, a professional 'non-reader'. 'Because I teach literature at university level,' he says, regretfully, 'there is, in fact, no way to avoid commenting on books that most of the time I haven't even opened.'

Bayard is infiltrating a 'forbidden subject', an area equivalent to 'finance and sex' in its secrecy. Despite society's 'worship' of reading, he avers, we are most of us heathens, even among the literary elite. And quite right, too: why waste time reading Joyce and Proust when you can talk about them - or skim the work of others? Taking it as given that no one actually reads for the pleasure of the process, Bayard proceeds to investigate the meaning of bibliographic cultural capital.


Monday, January 07, 2008


If the dialectic of word and image is central to the study of media, then the term ekphrasis (alternatively spelled ecphrasis) must also be a crucial part of understanding media as the intersection of verbal and visual. Few pieces of media jargon have as long a history or as considerable an evolution as ekphrasis. The conflict of word and image in media can be better understood by tracing the history and evolution of ekphrasis, which embodies the practice of both elements.

Ryan Welsh (2007)