Archive for July, 2011

In Defense of the Avant-Garde

by on Jul.01, 2011

I had a strangely visceral reaction to Christopher Higgs’ post on HTML Giant calling Montevidayo “experimental.” It was of course a curiously defensive reaction on my part and pretty pointless. So now I’d like to think of a couple of ways that I’m in favor of “the avant-garde.”

First I think Joyelle’s post from a while back rejection Bob Archambeau’s categorization of Charles Bernstein as a “rear-guardist.” But her rejection is not just to the linear terminology of rear-guardism (which obviously Archambeau shares with Marjorie Perloff, as in Josef’s post from a couple of days ago), but the idea – which has been often expounded on this blog – that the avant-garde is linear:

A Manifesto is a spasmodic text,a text of paradoxical urgencies, urges and intentions. First, it wants to say something. Then, it wants to declare that statement already obsolete. The dateline on a Manifesto on the one hand insists on entering itself into History, into the Public Record, but also serves as an expiration date– what is felt fitfully at the time of writing will no longer be current even by the time the Manifesto is published and read. What is made Manifest, then, is not permanence but transigence, transience, fickleness, intensity, expiration, obsolescence, the interaction of non-comparable units of time: Art’s anachronism. It is this lethality that the Futurists refer to in The Futurist Manifesto (20 Feb 1909): “Art can be nothing but violence, cruelty, and injustice.

(I highly recommend reading this mini post, it’s pretty suggestive.)

2. (continue reading…)

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Twin Peaks Was My First Boyfriend

by on Jul.01, 2011

There’s still a churning fantastic discussion going on at Johannes’s post Contamination (#99 balloons): David Lynch, Genre, HTML Giant, so I thought I’d take some of it topside, spin it out a bit–a little off the top of my head, yo!

As someone who agrees emphatically with Megan’s & Lara’s smart insights that a lot (most?) of the violence-against-women, a lot (most?) of the dead-girl art out there just reproduces, doesn’t crack patriarchal and/or misogynist foundations, I find myself drawn (sometimes ambivalently drawn, other times irresistibly house on fire) to the ways Lynch doesn’t smoothly replicate the world’s violence, or engage in a particularly legible complicity. He mangles, upends, twists, critiques, and yes sometimes despicably indulges in explorations of violence against women and men (of course the political weight of each gender’s victimization is quite different in quality).

(continue reading…)

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Surrealism in America

by on Jul.01, 2011

Mark Tursi, poet and publisher of Apostrophe Books (which is next publishing Gina Abelkop’s wonderful book, Darling Beastlettes), asked me to post the following provocation here:

In light of recent discussions on this blog regarding Surrealism and literary influences, I thought this might be an opportune time to ask a favor of all Montevidayo readers . . .
I’ve been working on generating a list of contemporary American Surrealist poets. I’m interested in writers whose work exhibits a significant debt to Surrealism and whose poetry is dominated by the “surrealist impulse.” The influence can be from French and European Surrealism, Latin American Surrealism, Negritude/Caribbean Surrealism, or elsewhere. I realize this opens up a bit of a can of worms, as the legacy of Surrealism and the influence of Surrealism is significant. But I’d rather keep it somewhat open-ended so that the work itself defines the parameters rather than my particular definition. . . I also tend to agree with Johannes in his most recent post about “counterfeit lineages” and many poets/scholars (e.g. Silliman) who exert a kind of “obsessive lineage-making.” This is not my intention. I elaborate on some of my discomfort with literary influence in a comment to Joyelle’s post from June 24th: Influence = Deformation Zone (A Telex from Solaris).
So, I’ll work by exemplification to shape the definition and hone the list when necessary. I’m using this for a number of things:
(continue reading…)

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Bacterial Poetics: The Role of Influence in the Ecology of Artistic Reproduction

by on Jul.01, 2011

In the opening of her post on influence as a deformation zone, Joyelle expresses her discomfort with the traditional model of literary influence:

For me this notion of influence, regardless of the gender of the participants, is too close to patrilineage, which bothers me for three reasons: its method of conserving property and wealth, ownership of originality; its copying over of heterosexist, male dominated bloodlines and the reproductive futurism that goes with it; and its commitment to linear notions of temporality—that what comes before causes what comes after, and that the most important thing is to move forward in time.

Joyelle assaults the patriarchal model of influence with an alternative view steeped in an extended metaphor of infection and a concept of “viral Art.”

Bloodlines, infection, viral Art – as we can see, biological tropes abound in Joyelle’s description. In an age when genetics is (drag) king and biological determinism is back in vogue (striking all kinds of seductive poses), we shouldn’t take this line of reasoning lightly. What might be the result of using biology to describe traditionally cultural phenomena like language and art?

In his book The Ecology of Language Evolution, Salikoko Mufwene posits that the model of gene in biology can be roughly applied to any unit of language (phonetic, morphological, syntactic, semantic, pragmatic) that can be transmitted from one speaker or group of speakers to another. Although Mufwene speaks about languages, I believe we can successfully apply his observations to art, which mutates and propagates much like languages do. If we follow Mufwene’s model of using population genetics to describe language change, art emerges as a species closely resembling bacteria, albeit with notable differences. Like bacteria, it is parasitic, fast-mutating, and capable of absorbing acquired traits into its genetic makeup. Like the human species, art is capable of passing on traits from parent to child; like bacteria, it’s also able to exchange traits horizontally, among peers; unlike either, it’s further capable of inheriting traits bidirectionally, from descendant to ancestor and back. Unlike any biological species we know, art can accommodate competing features within its makeup, and its mutations can be influenced by the will of the host organism.

Now that’s we’ve laid down the foundation, let’s move on to some key terms in the ecology of artistic reproduction.

1. Art is an airborne type of infection (although transmission via fluids has also been observed) and is present in all humans in small to moderate amounts. Individual colonies, also known as genii (from the Latin gignere, ‘to beget’), are capable of exchanging genetic material in the myriad ways described above. The passing of a gene from one genius to another is known as influence. The absorption of influence occurs through the process of inspiration (from the Latin inspirare, ‘to breathe into’). It’s something we inhale.

2. A human infected with an excess of art becomes an author (from the Latin augere, ‘to increase’).

3. Large colonies of art produce capsules called texts (from the Latin textus, ‘tissue’), which enable them to survive long periods of time without a host organism.

4. The formation of a text results in the death of an author. This event can occur multiple times during a host’s lifetime.

5. Art, from the Latin ars, related (through that subfield of etymology called homophony) to the English arse: erotic object and toxic discharge.

What do we make of this? Science is routinely used to normalize patriarchy, but the data here points to a different outcome.

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