Archive for January, 2015

Mongrel Coalition Against Gringpo Takes To Twitter, Questions Poetry Foundation’s Immediate Questioning of Mongrels

by on Jan.29, 2015


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Today’s tabloid headline:  the MCAG have a Twitter account!  Check it out @AgainstGringpo for more jeers and cheers regarding US poetry’s unexamined racial politics.

-The Messenger

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Wunderkammer: Kitsch and Violence in Cynthia Cruz, Lara Glenum, Plath and Celan

by on Jan.29, 2015

Lately I’ve been reading this new book Wunderkammer by Cynthia Cruz. The title refers to cabinets of curiosity, or wunderkammers, a subject matter I’m interested in. These chambers (sometimes rooms, sometimes boxes) was how back in pre-modern-science days people collected curiosities, often from other parts of the world, objects not following some kind of scientific classificatory system but rather tied together by their capacity to incite “wonder.”

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In the book Artificial Kingdom, Celeste Olalquiaga traces kitsch back to this “science”, which in its undead state turns into things like the “fern-craze” of Victorian England, when people would get aquariums and put ferns in them. I’m fascinated the wunderkammer’s inevitable connection between collecting, imperialism, decadence/death and of course Art.

I might even say that Surrealism – which so often stands in for “kitsch” in contemporary US poetry discussions – is based on the idea of the wunderkammer – with its collection of strange, useless, outdated objects brought together by occult forces. Benjamin famously called surrealism “dream kitsch”; and Clement Greenberg called Max Ernst “postcard kitsch.” Between those two phrases you get the connection between the wunderkammer and surrealism.

Of course this can be seen most clearly in Joseph Cornell’s boxes:

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These boxes of dream-trash, rescued from the garbage heap of New York City’s dreams.

Cruz’s poems are almost all wunderkammers – some of the poems are actually called wunderkammer, but even the ones that aren’t have the sense of a collection of objects brought together by some strange act:

WUNDERKAMMER

A Greek crime mars the pastoral.
Charts and maps, an atlas of anesthesia-
Laced nostalgia. A long haired, white
Rabbit, muffled, shot, and stuffed.
And old yellow chiffon gown, the ribbon
Hem, ripped and red wine stained.
Curricula of the mundane.
Symptoms of trauma, like ghost
Spots of water on crystal
That will not be washed off.

In many ways this poem seems to straight up describe a Cornell box. Like Cornell, Cruz’s poem is invested in the necroglamorous: the rabbit is stuffed, the chiffon gown old and stained, the crystal has ghost spots. But it is glamorous nonetheless, anesthesized by “nostalgia” and more specifically the nostalgia for glamor. The numbing seems to be physical: the speaker seems stuck like a stuffed rabbed, she cannot “wash off” the atmosphere of the piece, which primarily consists of the “chiffon gown” -its material seems to immobilize her. She cannot really get out of the box so to speak until the negative ending “will not be washed off” which for me works as a relief from the stultifying, stunting but beautiful glamour.
Continue reading “Wunderkammer: Kitsch and Violence in Cynthia Cruz, Lara Glenum, Plath and Celan” »

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Conceptualism Beyond the West: Divya Victor on Displacing the “Imperialist Pedigree”

by on Jan.27, 2015


A ver, compañeros, does “Gringpo” exist?  How might its colonialist frameworks operate not just on behalf of but also within Conceptualism?  What happens when a conceptualist writer of color faces these frameworks and works to wrest herself out of them?

To open up the discussion proposed by the Mongrel Coalition, I’m sharing an intriguing quote by Divya Victor that Walter–a commentator on yesterday’s post–excerpted from a convo featuring Victor and fellow writers Swantje Lichtenstein and Riccardo Boglione.

As Walter notes, Victor’s take on the need to “circumvent a Western, primarily imperialist pedigree” doesn’t sound far off from the Coalition’s decolonial aims.  Victor suggests how the narrow critical imaginary of ‘gringpo’ conceptualism ultimately lies in its Euro/US-centered canon formation and coterie:

I want to argue that if there is to be an articulation of conceptualism’s globality, and if we want to use its trans-national significance as a way to catalogue and historicize contemporary literary production, then we must insist on thinking repetition without Stein. In other words, we’ll have to circumvent a Western, primarily imperialist pedigree. The critical effort (Goldsmith, Perloff, etc.) has portrayed conceptualism as a historical continuity between two origin myths— one set in European, sometimes transatlantic, modernism (Duchamp, Stein, Klein, etc.) and one set in North American conceptualism in the 60s and 70s (Huebler, L. Wiener, Acconci, Cage, Schneeman, Kosuth, etc.). These artists and writers supply our ur-texts that then essentially allow us a convenient, but narrow, regionally- and racially-specific way of imagining the projects that present as conceptualist right now. It gives us good mothers and fathers, and then in turn defines our pedigree. This is obviously insufficient.

If critical efforts have managed and controlled our genealogies of conceptualism, the continually documented simulcast of coterie has defined its geographical parameters. Of course contemporary coterie matters, but that too is only a partial explication of influence. It is necessary for us to imagine and articulate conceptualisms not only as a product of regionally specific scenes or communities— for instance the thriving and brilliant community of poets working in New York city, and circulating in the gyre generated by the compelling and ever-dynamic Segue series. We need to also describe emerging forms of conceptualism as results of historical pressure and consequences of globalization. To do so is to include a consideration of who else is making conceptual works and to pluralize the poets who can occupy the cartography of conceptualist tendencies. To do so is to explain these emerging tendencies as a response not only to already institutionalized origin myths, or already privileged urban centers of making (New York, L.A.), but also as responses to lived practices of immigrants, travelers, or those who have systematically eschewed the fabrication of localized community by being itinerants. Conceptualism has made space for new forms of inclusivity, but these spaces have to be articulated into existence. Conceptualism’s “globality,” in other words, has to also make place for placelessness in practices of writing that come out of geographic transitionality.

In addition, Victor explains how misreadings of her work in the US have been used to uphold the white avant garde’s frames:

As someone who did not grow up in the United States, the record of my own trajectories of influence is quite other. I do not see my work as responding only to forms of art I’ve consumed, studied, or engaged with in the last ten years or so. When I began writing poems, the objects or oeuvres they resembled were entirely alien to me. I made Beckett-like poems or Joyce-like narratives knowing nothing of either writer. I was told I was “channeling” dead white men even as I tried to explain that I had never heard of them. Institutions instrumentalize even alien life, such as my own, and I was understood through my resemblance to these men— their beards and frosted noses superimposed on my flesh. As an immigrant and a woman of color, these networks of influence that have defined conceptualism in the United States— whether modernist literary experimentalism or post-punk commodities— continue to remain alien to me, and necessarily so.

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THE MONGREL COALITION AGAINST GRINGPO OFFERS EXTENDED THOUGHTS ON THE TATTERED FLAG OF WHITE CONCEPTUALISM

by on Jan.26, 2015

[Communiqué #2 sent to me by TMCAG.  I post on the coalition’s behalf and assume no part in its authorship.]

“Again I was supposed to know them, while they were not at all interested in knowing me. Instead they sought to ‘deconstruct’ the tradition to which they belonged even as they used the same forms, style, language of that tradition, forms which necessarily embody its values.” -Barbara Christian, “The Race for Theory”

“… the parasitical nature of white freedom.” -Toni Morrison, Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination

 

They tell us with a straight face that there is this thing called art–and that some of its practitioners have been into “ideas.” They say: did you know that this methodology is advanced? They repeat in unison: some poets conceptualize their work! Their work is about “ideas” (never specified, never identified).

The Jacket2 authors, in an attempt to elevate the claims, practices, and politics of white conceptualism, violently flatten. The tradition of this practice is so vast it was easy for us to spot.

Glaringly absent is their discussion. All we gauged from their discussion is that poetry critics and their favorite poets are 50 years behind in reading, selective in their memory, fixated and beholden to whiteness as property, whiteness as elevation, whiteness as transcendence.

In their omissions the politics of Gringpo are presented:

Peddling the notion that white male poets make art about ideas…vs what? Black poets write about the body? From their body (because this is so horrific!!!!)? Female identified writings are produced by their feelings? The consistently old Cartesian dichotomy that “some” writers are engaged with the process of ideas (and therefore abstraction and therefore elevated) while “others” are fixated to the realm of the earthly crass and contingently precise: these are clearly marked racialized and gendered divisions. So to get this right: white male writers and their companion poets make work for the mind, of the mind. Let’s not even mention their obliteration of the soul: everyone else is stuck with the body. Gringpo has gotten so sloppy it can’t even dress up its racism.

In addition: to suggest that conceptualists make work centering on ideas is at this point in art criticism sloppy and ignorant at best. To collapse the variations of conceptual art practices (institutional critique, social practice, relational, non-relational, etc, each one with their limits) and their explicit political projects–this reading is behind by at least 50 years. Continue reading “THE MONGREL COALITION AGAINST GRINGPO OFFERS EXTENDED THOUGHTS ON THE TATTERED FLAG OF WHITE CONCEPTUALISM” »

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THE MONGREL COALITION AGAINST GRINGPO RESPONDS TO THE LINKS BETWEEN CONCEPTUAL ART AND CONCEPTUAL POETRY

by on Jan.22, 2015

[Note: Although I have used the term “Gringpo” in the past, I did not author this communiqué.  The Mongrel Coalition Against Gringpo, an anonymous entity, asked me to post it on their behalf in response to the recent Jacket2 article on the relationship between Conceptual art and poetry. ]

 

“It is the innocence which constitutes the crime.” –James Baldwin

 

WE ARE REMINDED THAT WHITE EMPIRE IS UNITED. THEIR FRONT IS UNITED BY COLONIAL DOMINANCE, CULTURAL ARROGANCE, THEIR DEVOTION TO FINANCIAL CAPITALISM AND GLOBAL DISASTERS.

THEY ARE UNITED IN THEIR ENCRATIC USAGE OF AESTHETICS.

ENCRATIC: LANGUAGE THAT IS PRODUCED AND PROTECTED UNDER POWER (TRINH MINH HA).

OUR RESPONSE TO THEIR UNITED FRONT:

1. The level of bullshit racism that gets to pass as scholarship does not cease to surprise us. Gringpo arrogance is shocking on all fronts!

2. How is gringpo gonna talk about conceptual any fucken thing without ACTUALLY DISCUSSING THE IDEAS THAT ARE BEING CIRCULATED BY THEIR PRODUCERS

EXAMPLE:

KENNIE G AND HIS CREW CIRCULATE THE IDEA THAT WE DON’T NEED TO WRITE OR READ (CUZ WHITE CISHET MALE NARRATIVES HAVE EXHAUSTED ITSELF, SCREW ALL NARRATIVES THAT RESIST AND DREAM OTHERWISE), ALSO SCREW CITATIONS (PATCH FUCKEN WORK!) EVERYTHING BELONGS TO THE WHITE MALE ACADEMIC AND THEIR ANOINTIES INCLUDING IDENTITIES DON’T YOU DARE SUGGEST OTHERWISE

3. Gringpo’s adoration and devotion to mimicking the hierarchies of financial capitalism does not cease to amaze. “The conceptual artist and the conceptual poet intersect as information managers.” Yes! The elevation and celebration of not only immaterial labor but immaterial MANAGEMENT. In this diagram, who remains raw material, appropriated, labor, subcontracted? How are they paid where do they live how are they managed tell us tell us tell us

4. This Strike Gringpo?

Continue reading “THE MONGREL COALITION AGAINST GRINGPO RESPONDS TO THE LINKS BETWEEN CONCEPTUAL ART AND CONCEPTUAL POETRY” »

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