March 2006

[Here are some old notes I had made last year prior to going to a “thinktank” on electronic writing at the University of Iowa.]

1. Criticism seems never to deal with affective issues of the art — when a piece strikes you as unusually compact, sharply ironic, aggressive (can new media art be truly aggressive in the way limited analog video tapes can be?) the text is not anaylized beyond whether it is more or less suitable for the piece.  New media art is usually positioned as explaining an abstract principle related to other facets of new media rather than experienced. Art is given the task of illustrating a critic’s ideas, which doesn’t leave a lot of room for the artist to create new ideas.  Too much concentration on large works with pretensions of dealing with some large linguistic issue, for example.

2. I don’t care about the relationship of the human to the machine as a theme for work.  Perhaps the romantic approach to art, “subjectivity” that matters rather than the abstract idea of “subjectivity,” is truly gone, but that leaves a whole lot of people who don’t have computers out of the equation.

3. Has the myth of new media adequately adopted the mantle of Surrealism, Existentialism, and homegrown, but hardly philosophical, products like Abstract Expressionism and the Beats?  Or more importantly, Situationism and/or Marxism?  Rather than being a continuous self-critique — new media art being dystopic in the face of proposed utopic program — is new media prepared to be a life philosophy in the way previous paradigms of art tried to be?

4. New media artists should not give powerpoint presentations about their art.  It stands between the artist and the audience, when in fact the goal appears to have been that the audience gets a crack at the artist in his/her presence.  Also, it destroys the enigma.  I think occasionally that the enigma is corrupted by too much explanation, but digital art is often poised as an explanatory process.

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This must be a week devoted to writing poems for our about me. I’ve just discovered an odd bit called Brian Kim Stefans (Nebraskan Misfit) at a blog called carton’s book of merz, with the notable line “as shed gecko permutes us.”

I heard earlier in the month that I am included in Kent Johnson’s massive book Epigrammatitis: 118 Living American Poets. It’s 266 pages and “fully illustrated.” I’d buy it except that 1) I almost never buy books anymore, being broke, 2) I suspect that his epigram about me is somehow telling me I’m a weenie even if it seems ok on the surface, or 3) several epigrams directed to my friends are simply telling them they are weenies. Of course, there is also the possibility of 4) severeal epigrams directed at people I don’t like are telling them they are weenies, but there aren’t a lot of people I don’t like, and I’m not sure I’d want to wish a Kent Johnson epigram on any of them.

And earlier today I had three poet friends over for Korean food: Ryan Dayley, Lynn Xu and Juliette Lee (who brought the food) and they got it into their heads to write me an elegy, which appears below. I’m not sure I deserve such, uh, affection? I’m just glad I “excited the cherries” though I wonder if I could be arrested for that. 

An epigram, an elegy and being called a “Nebraskan misfit” in one week must be some kind of record. I feel almost as fulfilled and recognized as a Flarf poet!

An Elegy for Brian Kim Stefans

A cherry grenade, high tops, yellow pads, marzipan.
Between a coover and a morrissey, lies compromise
And then they loved him.  And they embraced him, over the high fences.
As a snowcone in a hurricane then high tide!
Holy rollers, mine bicycle placates my tubular maneuver
And then the fog came.  And then the flowers.  The flaming stroke. 
Softer rocket how. Made up sweeteners, a sleepy eye.
Galant Russian exports, thrust fist German into lunfardo vocality
And then the healers for cooler love, invoked a more radical God.
An out of key panda cub gave it up first. She said.
Plug it in and it gets public
And then they loved him.  And in the vast plains, the braver flames.
Golden monkey, sing it again.
For coin, couldn’t see the cup’s bottom
And in the sex of the players.  And over the bleachers.  Excited the cherries.    Send article as PDF   

Check out the poster I designed… click to enlarge.

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People have wondered why I like the poetry of Australian writer Martin Johnston so much. It’s purely because of this photograph:


One of the few poets who can join the ranks of the hairless cat and the deep sea angler as exotic, sepulchral creatures without even trying. But seriously, he was pretty good, and even his novel was ok. There’s a lot of his stuff at Jacket including a not very good article about him by me.

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