Iowa Occult: A Mütter Pedagogy; Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Vomit Art

by on Jul.28, 2011

To celebrate the Iowa MFA’s 75th anniversary, the program has started a do-it-yerself Festschrift, whereby alums are writing little essays about the program for the websites of various journals.   N +1-web- editor Carla Blumenkrantz invited me to participate on her site. The result, “Iowa Occult: A Mütter Pedagogy; Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Vomit Art”, is now up here, at n + 1.

It begins:

1. What is Knowledge? What shape does Knowledge take? It’s not a question we expect to find raised in an Iowa-style workshop, where we turn our attention to concrete things: form, craft, the page, the neat crosses and channels of a line break or an ellipsis or/and especially the poem’s earned/unearned ending. No ideas but in thingsWms. But the inverse of this craftiness, this roll-up-your-sleeves-and-work-with-your-hands shop-class affect of the Iowa-style workshop, is the unspeakable pressure of a counterpresence: an amorphic, powerful, hole-tearing, ravening, careless and gratuitous and excessive and unearned presence: that of Art itself. 

Read on, dear Montevidayans, read on. And while you’re at the web-cafe, check out the Mütter Museum, if you haven’t already.

3 comments for this entry:
  1. James Pate

    Fascinating essay…I like the focus on mutation, on the monstrous mess of Art. Any set of aesthetic proscriptions covertly or not so covertly implies that art has become a static, crystalized object instead of an object that has only crystalized for a moment…the notion of influence comes in here too. A stable lineage = a stable variety of tools (i.e., craft-works) = safe Art for ready consumption.

    An art devoid of pleasure or pain, only capable of telling us what we already see in front of our eyes.

  2. Nathan Hoks

    Wow, ironist = nazi! Give me a break, Jorie.

    But I love this essay because it uses two of my favorite human oddities/disasters, the Mutter Museum and the Pacific Garbage Patch.

    Whose the AW of “[Art]makes the inside the outside and the outside the inside”?

  3. Johannes

    There was a lot of talk about Nazism strangely. How this or that kind of poetics led to Nazism. Donald Revell also had a line on this, which he repeats in his book of prose – that the Dadaists were to blame for Nazism, or something like that.