Archive for November, 2010

Lightning Bolt

by on Nov.10, 2010

In response to John Woods post on Fort Thunder, Sam White wrote me the following:

“Yeah, Lightning Bolt is one of those bands you have to catch if you ever get a chance. They’re easily one of the best live acts I’ve seen because their music is really well crafted and really hard and jet engine loud. Plus they play on the ground and there’s always a huge crowd surging around them, so unless you’re up front it’s pretty hard to see them. But they generally play with one clamp light on them so the experience from the back is this incredibly thunderous music and a weird glow emanating from the center of a massive crowd. Plus Brian Chippendale usually wears a hand-made mask with the microphone harnessed to his face while he drums. And his vocals are distorted so its sounds like some kind of bizarre murmuring. I’ve seen them a few times and they never disappoint, usually the venue is some bombed out Mill building at 3 in the morning. Pretty great.”

Here’s a youtube clip:

This perhaps brings a different spin on the idea of “messy” art.

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Review of John Woods, The Complete Collection of People, Places and Things

by on Nov.10, 2010

John’s books is reviewed over at Tarpaulin Sky:

“Anderson’s quote surfaces in the first chapter of Winesburg, in a section entitled “The Book of the Grotesques”. In it, an elderly writer composes the book in response to “a dream that was not a dream” in which “all of the men and women the writer had ever known had become grotesques”(Anderson, 24). The “it” of Woods’s epigraph refers to the narrator’s summary of this writer’s book which he recalls as such:

In the beginning when the world was young there were a great many thoughts but no such thing as a truth. Man made the truths himself and each truth was a composite of a great many vague thoughts. All about in the world were the truths and they were all beautiful. (Anderson, 25)

There is no better introduction to Woods’s The Complete Collection of people, places and things, which can be read as a modern day reimagining of “The Book of Grotesques”. Woods’s novel is a practice in the art of defamiliarization, outlining a world that is only vaguely recognizable, in which the existence of water has not yet been proven and sleep is induced through force; “a place where people ended up remembering, when all they wanted to do was regret” (pg.100). The book functions as both ethnography of our-world-estranged as well as instructions for navigating it, centered on characters named Glo-worm, Voltron, Punky Brewster, Danger Mouse, Rainbow Brite, and Optimus Prime who are embarrassed to admit in public they haven’t used game cartridges and protect their party favors and switchboards with as much fervor as their pride.


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5 Questions with Blaise Larmee

by on Nov.09, 2010

Blaise Larmee is a particularly interesting presence in comics these days. While he certainly cartoons, his aesthetic is obviously drawn from a much broader vocabulary: philosophy, language, anti-narrative, deconstructed marks-making. You can see this on display in his book Young Lions. Follow his thoughts at the Co-mix (cometscomets) blog. And, now, see him publish books with his new press Gaze Books, which just released its first book, The Whale by Aidan Koch.

JDW: Name three or four comics artists whose work is particularly influential on the comics being created in 2010.

BL: Frank Santoro, Aidan Koch, Jason Overby.

JDW: Whose fiction and/or poetry are you into these days?
(continue reading…)

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Nirvana vs Pavement

by on Nov.09, 2010

[I wrote a reply to a good post Adam Jameson left to John’s Fort Thunder entry. It’s totally unsupportable, I know, but I thought might as well put it as a post because it’s pretty long:]


Many great ideas.

I love Raymond Pettibon’s work. Love.

Also, look at the Sara Eriksson pictures I posted in connection with John’s and mine discussion about comics. She’s an artist but begins to look a little like comics of sorts.

I’ve been thinking about Pavement a lot lately. Partially in response to a New Yorker article where Sasha Frere Jones, who picked Nirvana over Pavement as the band of the 90s (I much prefer Nirvana too): “If Pavement’s songs were the air-conditioned stacks at the main library, Nirvana’s were the fight behind the bleachers: one set of problems was theoretical and subject to will; the other was entirely real and unmanageable.” []
(continue reading…)

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Mini Interview with Steve Tomasula

by on Nov.08, 2010

I asked Steve about my previous post about his and Blake’s books, and what had caused him to bring design into the book.


“I guess I wasn’t thinking of bringing design into the book so much as using the materials of the book as part of the story: it was real important to me that the book/story be a real object in the world, like a brick, not something that could exist on the web, or be poured into a kindle, but something with a body that lived in the world like other physical things we have to contend with—which, I think, is a backdoor way of saying, yes, from the start I thought of VAS as a visual novel, in that the visuals would help tell the story (as opposed to illustrate a story), the story being how the language associated with text (e.g. editing, body text, copyright) was becoming literal in the body (editing the genetic alphabet, patent of genes, etc.). In this sense the book is a metaphor for the body, just as the body can be thought of as a kind of book. It was important then, to make the materials of the book (language, but also ink, paper) tell this story (e.g. an original meaning of “plagiarism” was the theft of a child, and VAS is full of “appropriations”)–all of this meant that the design of the book was going to have play a lot larger role than it does for those transparent designs, as you call them in your post, where the page is the ‘crystal goblet meant to hold the wine of literature’ as someone once put it, i.e. design you can just see through or don’t notice. Along with the body=book=body aspect of the novel, the story also tries to foreground how constructed our ideas of nature or the natural are, so here again, it was important for me to have the book/body that the reader holds in his or her hands remind them that what they are reading was also a constructed object, not the “dream a reader can get lost in,” that so many conventional novels (and book designs) encourage. Does that make sense?”

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The Great Ephemeral Skin: Kara Walker, Matthew Barney, Laura Mullen

by on Nov.08, 2010

I’ve been fascinated with Lyotard’s notion of the Great Ephemeral Skin, developed in his book Libidinal Economy, which imagines a libidinous body as a kind of Moebius skin, which has not got two side, but only one, and therefore neither exterior nor interior. Yet this Great Ephemeral Skin hosts a radical contiguity which not only lays interior and exterior out in a continuous surface but also mashes together all other categories—

“[…] the immense membrane of the libidinal ‘body’ […] is made from the most heterogeneous textures, bone, epithelium, sheets to write on, charged atmospheres, swords, glass cases, peoples, grasses, canvases to paint. All these zones are joined end to end in a band which has no back to it, a Moebius band which interests us not because it is closed, but because it is one-sided.”

I find this figure immensely interesting and Lyotard’s vertiginous way of writing about it, which contains many dizzy(-ing) lists, even more so. Amazingly, I find this figure popping back in to my head when I consider any number of artists and writers whose work configures a radical contiguity like this—Kara Walker, for one, whose lateral panoramics force the viewer to mime reading, black on white, to encounter body after body pressed into a syntax of violence, in which not only are hierarchies of master and slave continually broken down, flipped and recycled, but also hierarchies of person and object, weapon and body, before and after, cause and effect. All are flattened out and reworked by this reading, which, as one critic has observed, establishes no vanishing point, and therefore no prescribed point of view or critical distance.

(continue reading…)

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Twin Peaks: Corridoricity, Ambient Violence and Wounds (pt 1)

by on Nov.08, 2010

Steven Karl wrote the following comment to Joyelle’s post about ambient violence in my book A New Quarantine Will Take My Place:

“… The idea of violence, real, imagined, pop-cultured, implicit/explicit, I think is an interesting topic to explore with Johannes, Raun Klassnik, Dan Magers, & others. I always come back the “violence” in Laura Mullen’s book, Murmur, which in a lot of ways reminds me of Twin Peaks, which I’ve recently began re-watching. Do you think that ambient violence could be an extension to Ngai’s Ugly Feelings (affectation) discussion?”

These comments give me a good excuse to ramble about some of my favorite topics/texts. I’ll start with Twin Peaks.

I think Twin Peaks is certainly a place of ambient violence. The whole film is saturated in violence. Part of the “failure” of the TV series may have been that the violence became so “ambient” – ie it was not just one murder but a constant ambience of violence, reflecting a murder plot which did not “end”, was never “solved,” or it was solved but it had already generated all this remainder, leftover which was in fact, it turned out, the focus of the show.
(continue reading…)

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William Archila is reading at Notre Dame this Afternoon

by on Nov.08, 2010

WILLIAM ARCHILA to read his poems at Notre Dame—-THIS AFTERNOON (Monday)

November 8, 2010
4 PM
202 McKenna Hall

Reception and book signing to follow
@ Julian Samora Library Lounge
2nd Floor McKenna Hall

In THE ART OF EXILE (Bilingual Press, 2010), WILLIAM ARCHILA asks readers to engage with a subject seldom explored in American poetry: the unrest in El Salvador in the 1980s and its impact on Central American immigrants who now claim this country as home. In language that is poignant and often harrowing, the poet takes us on a journey from Santa Ana, El Salvador, to Los Angeles, California. Archila bridges race, class, metaphor, and reality with astuteness, mingling humor and pain with a skill that denigrates neither.

WILLIAM ARCHILA was born in Santa Ana, El Salvador and earned his MFA in poetry from the University of Oregon, where he received the Fighting Fund Fellow Award. The award-winning poet’s work has been published in Agni , Bilingual Review/Revista Bilingüe , Crab Orchard Review , and The Georgia Review and also appears in the anthologies New to North America: Writing by Immigrants (Burning Bush Publishing, 2007) and Another City: Writing from Los Angeles (City Lights, 2001). THE ART OF EXILE was featured in Poets&Writers Annual Debut Poets feature in 2010.

“A poet of the heart and head, of the personal and public, at times William Archila’s poignant poems make me hear and feel an echo of Pablo Neruda and Cesar Vallejo.”
-From the introduction by Yusef Komunyakaa, Pulitzer Prize winner

Southern California Public Radio feature on William Archila:

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Schwabsky on Gurlesque Anthology

by on Nov.08, 2010

[In this review Barry Schwabsky positions in some ways the Gurlesque anthology as a kind of counter argument to e Susan Faludi essay in Harper‘s, in which she criticizes young feminists of not being properly feminist (most explicitly Judith Halberstam, who blurbed the Gurlesque anthology):]

“… But the fact that Greenberg, Glenum, and their posse don’t want to be the kind of feminists their mothers were doesn’t mean they don’t want to be feminists at all; they want a feminism of their own, with an in-your-face aesthetic that encompasses, as Glenum says, “burlesque and camp, girly kitsch and the female grotesque.” Or, as Tina Brown Celona writes in one of her prose poems: “For a while I hushed. Then I started up again about my cunt. Some said it was a vicious swipe at feminism. Others said it was a vicious feminist swipe.””

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Context: Fort Thunder

by on Nov.05, 2010

Johannes and I were just talking and he pointed out that many Montevidayo readers, those who are not extensive readers of comics, might be interested in what I think are some of the formative historical works and movements that inform contemporary work. So I hung up the phone with him and decided to write this. Hopefully, I’ll do a series of posts like these. Just suggestions of things to check out as way of building a context when looking at comics, cartooning, visual narrative – that kind of thing.

I think a good place to start discussing the source of some of the more avant-garde or form-challenging work being created today is to consider what was happening in Providence, RI a decade ago. (The contemporary work that I’m talking about includes comics published by presses like Picture Box, which I hope to write more about.) At the center of the Providence scene was an old warehouse, venue, workspace, housing complex called Fort Thunder.

This was the center of both the noise rock scene and the indie comics scene happening in the city at that time. Brian Chippendale, member of the band Lightning Bolt and a comics creator, is the best place to start to understand Fort Thunder. Chippendale sheds cartoonists’ traditional anal retention of exact tools, and particular lines, and preciousness. While in many ways his work (including his recent Ninja) explores the role of traditional genres in comics, they resist the expectations of that kind of work. His smudges and palimpsests and cross-hatching will never be confused with the perfect blacks of Jack Kirby (or the deft Rapidograph lines of Robert Crumb, for the matter). This is maximalist work. The lo-fi approach is indicative of much of the “alternative” art created in the late nineties. (Think Pavement’s approach to classic rock.) There’s something about the Fort Thunder work that often makes people say, “What is this shit?” at first look. But the lines compel you not to look away, to find the movements and the shapes and the coherence hidden with the nest of marks.

Other Fort Thunder artists include Mat Brinkman. His work is also characterized by crowded pages, and an obliqueness that hides an essentially “boy”-inspired adventure story:

And the more accessible work of Brian Ralph (he builds up those beautiful thick lines with a Uniball pen):

And I think the work of CF (Chris Forgues) very much follows in this tradition.

The next place to go from here is a discussion of fine artiste and cartoonist Ben Jones and techno-maximalists Paper Rad.

Oh, and, of course, the single creator who made this work possible is Gary Panter. Let’s talk about him next time. (Then we’ll talk about Paper Rad, and then look at the reincorporation of the conventions of traditional genre comics into these deconstructed pages in the work of Frank Santoro, and discuss his own fresh, new term  for what the kids are up to: “hybrid comics.”)

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Sara Eriksson/comics/drawings

by on Nov.05, 2010

I was having a conversation with John Woods about art and drawings and comics, and we talked about Sara Eriksson, whose work we’ve published in Action, Yes and whose book we’re publishing with Action Books:

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Valerie Solanas

by on Nov.05, 2010

Here’s a link to Valerie Solana’s entire SCUM manifesto. (Thanks to Sean Lovelace of HTML giant for pointing it out.)

Here’s a good one:

Being an incomplete female, the male spends his life attempting to complete himself, to become female. He attempts to do this by constantly seeking out, fraternizing with and trying to live through an fuse with the female, and by claiming as his own all female characteristics — emotional strength and independence, forcefulness, dynamism, decisiveness, coolness, objectivity, assertiveness, courage, integrity, vitality, intensity, depth of character, grooviness, etc — and projecting onto women all male traits — vanity, frivolity, triviality, weakness, etc. It should be said, though, that the male has one glaring area of superiority over the female — public relations. (He has done a brilliant job of convincing millions of women that men are women and women are men). The male claim that females find fulfillment through motherhood and sexuality reflects what males think they’d find fulfilling if they were female.

Here’s a link to some translations of Sara Stridsberg’s novel The Dream Faculty, which is a fictionalization of Valerie Solana’s life.

I really love this novel.

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by on Nov.05, 2010

Hey all, I’m cooking up a full length review of Rosa Alcala’s “Undocumentaries”, as well as a going-on-thirty-page essay about Bolano’s use of and and or, and its got me thinking about similes.

Yes, similes.

What’s interesting about similes is how overt they are– they have the like or as, anyone can pick ’em out. They propose a likeness. Yet there is something duplicitous about the simile, because every time they say like, they are really saying unlike. Because ‘likeness’ is not identical-ness, it’s not complete. There’s a certain residue of unlikeness that is signaled by the word like. Visually speaking, the word ‘like’ comes between two entities and visually enacts a tremulous link between two things are not identical. Two weights that want to split apart (that are already split apart). Like is the join that sunders. For all its overtness, ‘like’ is literary thinking splitting apart, generating a dark matter.

For example, when Rosa Alcala writes “A Girl Like Me”, and uses that girl as the protagonist-figure of her poems, we begin to realize that the like smuggles in an entropy in place of an apparent binary. The girl is the ‘me’s likeness, but there is a split there, an unlikeness, an unspeakable distance between the speaker and the ‘girl’ that creates noise in the form of poem. As the girls multiply in the poems– the Yugoslavian girl, the girl in the factory, a writer girl– the reader is left in a flexing, aporistic space– what is likeness? If one can generate multiple likenesses, can they really be said to be ‘like’, or is every ‘like’, as Plato feared, really generating counterfeits, ill-formed knockoffs which expand the number of things in the world?

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