[-empyre-] reply to Funkhouser

Craig Saper csaper at umbc.edu
Sat Nov 26 10:15:42 AEDT 2016


Hi Christopher Funkhouser,

Thank you for the delicious morsels in answering Murat’s questions. I just want to highlight a few bits here: "One of the first “theorists” I ever read was Donna Haraway … [now you] "see everything that uses digital media non-trivially to be a cyborgian endeavor” — what interests me is how “poets” (and I guess we should put poets in quotes just like theorists?) read theory. Also, I recommend the clips you included here. Since I’m a literary and art “ heorist" and historian of avant-garde and experimental publishing — so I’m listening to your cyborgian “oetry” … And, also feel that the list means you are alway coming into conversations already underway and not having time to respond.    Craig      

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Hi Murat,



I couldn’t delve into anything on Thanksgiving, & hope everyone had a blessed day.

Now, let’s see… this discussion reminds me of being on listservs in the 90s: lots to think about, hard to keep up with everything, & difficult to elaborate as much as one would like, or could in a face-to-face situation.

I was wondering what you meant by my work being, “in fascinating ways full of contradictions”. Early on as a poet who became somewhat of a technologist, I might have seen that as a contradiction (others definitely did), though not anymore.



But how often starting a work of art do we no where we are going (at least the kind of work I assume interests you and me)? We evolve, basically try to discover the work. In that way, intention is not a useful concept for me. To me failure has to do with gaps in a work, loose or unexplained parts though the work is presented as complete. In that way, failure is related more to a lack of total answer.

Discovering the work is a good way to describe what usually happens, but working with software/design/code/&c I always try to have a general vision as to where I’m going even if a lot of things do happen on-the-fly. In this realm there’s often a lot of tedious prep, which can be/is extended if to many big changes have to be made on the fly. If I don’t set up some sort of general intention, though (as in a yoga class), I’d likely have problems! Failure for me usually has to do with tech issues—esp. those that make a work inaccessible, which happen way to often & on multiple levels (e.g., hosting, .www permissions, dll updates, changes in OS & software standards (i.e., Flash/Shockwave))

What is interesting in what you do is that, while you "accept" the absolute perfection of the code, a lot of the artists that interest you and you get deeply involved with, including your own projects, are open ended, improvisational, "evanescent" so to speak, such as Cecil Tayloror the wonderful piece of music "Wedge" you linked us to in your post.

I do try to keep an open perspective on things, & working with programming/design software there are ways to organize expression & project material without being bogged down by any constraints imparted code’s “perfection”. These tools are there to help us do what we want, & there are ways to use them that allow invention & expansion rather than confine.

In what relation do you see the perfection of the digital code (its "unforgiving" divine reality :) ) and your improvisational aesthetics? I know in in your book you say that the poetry created digitally is essentially ephemeral, and the artist must acknowledge it.

I definitely accept ephemerality as a given, & expect most digital works—if not cared for/maintained with some dedication—will become unusable somewhere down the line (has already happened, to me & others--a lot), which in many cases is really unfortunate. I see it as part of the conditions of postmodern poetry. David Antin's skywriting piece disappeared even more quickly!

fwiw, the thing about the work I’m doing now (for the past 5 years or so), with sound and image, is that the coding allows the sound-image-text to be rendered improvisationally. MIDI allows me to play an instrument, or speak, and have the sound (& makeup of the sound) trigger onscreen or audible events. Once I discovered how to make this happen, making improvised digital poems became possible. Plus, programs like javascript enable impromptu, interactive database stylings that may not be improvised on-the-spot but project a sense of spontaneity and uniqueness—they seem improvised (esp. if the user/viewer is allowed to input content). &, btw, I did end up posting some of the new work I've done, mapping voice to instrumentation, a couple of days ago at https://soundcloud.com/fnkhsr/page-33-infiltration <https://soundcloud.com/fnkhsr/page-33-infiltration> (another approach, where instrument drives animation in performance is up at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9PkkqOzCf4 <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9PkkqOzCf4> or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=si30Iajz4Zs <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=si30Iajz4Zs> (a collab with Amy & Sophia Sobers, whose projections do not appear unfortunately)

"I was thinking about glitch after my post yesterday, but even in something that is glitch (in any form), the code functions properly. usually these works are aberrations imposed by composer, hardware, or software. but it is the surface that contains something unexpected/distorted. the code is able to do what it is instructed/informed to do. glitch is a great cyborgian form, whether intentionally created, or not.."

To me, Chris, the above passage reminds me of Medieval (Christian) discourse on God and the existence of evil--  OK! But the stakes are not so elevated. I was just rambling on, probably ineffectively, a certain topic. As far as making stuff goes, I never think of myself or anyone else as taking on the role of god, though I do like the highlighted passage of your post below!

God's design is often inscrutable, but always there. Humanity can only experience the surface --and sees evil (unexpected/distorted): "What is the difference between God and virtual God?" "Virtual God is real." It's the software programmer.

Could you elaborate on the following sentence: "glitch is a great cyborgian form, whether intentionally created, or not.."



Sure. One of the first “theorists” I ever read was Donna Haraway, in 1991 when we were both living in Santa Cruz. Her Manifesto about Simians, Cyborgs, & Women really knocked me out & I kind of took it to heart & mind. The idea that so many things are chimeras, hybrids of human & machine, made (makes) a lot of sense. So I basically see everything that uses digital media non-trivially to be a cyborgian endeavor. That was the reference point. Glitch can of course be done non-digitally (with scissors, paint, arms, quod libet) so it’s not exclusive to computers. I know a few people who, using software (as well as output manipulation) do intentional glitch work; othertimes, it happens by accident & comes to eyes, ears, etc. 

I’m sure I didn’t say enough, or address everything, but that’s it for the moment. Bests, CF


On Thu, Nov 24, 2016 at 1:12 PM, Murat Nemet-Nejat <muratnn at gmail.com <mailto:muratnn at gmail.com>> wrote:
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Bruce, you have hooked up with the Project ten years earlier than me. I had just returned from living in London for almost two years (and I had said to my wife Karen that if I don't see another beautiful green park in my life I'll be happy). I wanted to go to a poetry event in New York. It was Wednesday, and at the Project Paul Auster was presenting his anthology of French poetry that he had edited with multiple readers (to me the most memorable was Armand Schwerner reading his Michaux translations). That was it. I became friends with Bob Rosenthal and Simon Pettet who had introduced Paul, and we created The Committee for International Poetry. That was another adventure.

I agree with you about the ups and down of the Project. We all heard our share of boring stuff there. I did doze off occasionally but the place always seemed to come through. A lot of poets, artists came from different parts of the States and the world and learned from and collaborated with each other. 

What the Project has been doing is what the Web is doing now. I have had long term collaborations with artists over the years whom I have never met. That is the huge positive of the digital world.

"We did want to focus attention on language itself as the medium, but I'm not ready to embrace some of your characterization:  words & letters are not non-referential, but we liked to organize them in other ways beside what they were pointing to (which was too often, for us, the author's personalizing experience or expressiveness or traditional lyric expectations). We tended to want the readers' experience at the center — which cuts against some of this binary of yours about the sensual, movement-based vs. logical aspects of language"

Bruce, when you say "We tended to want the readers' experience at the center," are you saying anything different than saying "I want the text at the center," the reader reading the text? The question interests me because in my essay The Peripheral Space of Photography, I assert that what is important in a photograph is not the photographer's focus (framing), but what escapes that framing. The real dialogue occurs between the watcher of the photograph and what is in front of the lens (human or a landscape, etc.). If, as I think you are to saying, it is the reader (and not purely the text), then even the "reveries" the reader builds around the text reading it become part of it. Is that not so?

"Logical" was an unfortunate choice of words, on my part. I am more interested in the distinction between predicated idea (therefore fixed) and thought as process (therefore movement). One can have thought and/in movement (that's what Eda is). In that way, thought is sensual.

"So if there's an "exchange" it's a mutual bending (which might be way too mutually disruptive to warrant being called a "synthesis"). Maybe that's more like the relationship between a 'dialect' & an 'official' language — [and by the way, doesn't "the dialectic" typically end up in a synthesis]?  

Yes, mutually bending and disruptive, not a synthesis. That's what a true, transforming translation does, bends, alters both languages, discovers potentialities in them. Walter Benjamin does see a synthesis in the process when he writes that in a translation "A" does not move to "B" but both move to a third place "C ," which he calls "ideal language." Some people believe Benjamin was being a "poet" (poet in the pejorative sense) here. "Ideal language" is a mystical fantasy. I am not one of them.  I believe it is part of the core of his very original concept of translation.

"... doesn't "the dialectic" typically end up in a synthesis]?"

Not necessarily. I believe in an art or poetry of continuous dialectic. The Talmud, where the interpretations of  a holy passage are never resolved and remain always multiple, is such a text.

To be continued (inviting others to join).

Ciao,
Murat

On Wed, Nov 23, 2016 at 6:29 PM, Bruce Andrews <andrews at fordham.edu <mailto:andrews at fordham.edu>> wrote:
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Hi all — finally figured out a little more about the interface [one of my least favorite words] & receiving messages intriguingly dated many hours ahead — from Australia — so it's already Thanksgiving the day before.

Thanks, on Thanksgiving [with recent political events, e.g. the trumpocalypse, having disrupted so many things I was hoping for & hoping to give thanks for], Murat, for your Intro.

Nice to think of the Poetry Project as a site for adventurous exploring — certainly it's where I first had a chance to talk with you (often about matters political, Turkey, etc. — I started going there, & getting to read every couple years, right after arriving in NYC in 1975, to take a job as a Political Science professor [American Imperialism my specialty] wch lasted 38 of the 41 years since).

The so-called 'Language Poets' actually tended to question whether the consensus 'New York School/Beat' styles honored at the PProject was really still devoted to adventurously "exploring the outer limits and possibilities" of the medium: our aesthetics had taken shape in the early to mid 1970s, mostly outside of NY & hashed out in the mail rather than face to face in any community 'scene'. We did want to focus attention on language itself as the medium, but I'm not ready to embrace some of your characterization:  words & letters are not non-referential, but we liked to organize them in other ways beside what they were pointing to (which was too often, for us, the author's personalizing experience or expressiveness or traditional lyric expectations). We tended to want the readers' experience at the center — which cuts against some of this binary of yours about the sensual, movement-based vs. logical aspects of language. If I had to choose sides there, I'd always go with movement & the sensory, as a way to 'volatilize' & 'capacitate' its potential readers; my own writing certainly doesn't get much acclaim for being "logical". But I'd rather step outside any polemical wrangling about the poetry we do & keep things focused on the digital front:  for instance, whether an online presentation tends to help or hinder the kinds of reading that put movement & the senses in the forefront.

On your question:  I don't think that verbal language is basically a self-referential system; instead, it seems more like a messy hybrid. And so is what happens via the computer & the web: this may be distinctive as a linguistic/communicative arrangement, but that's not exactly what I see in the idea of it creating its own system. So if there's an "exchange" it's a mutual bending (which might be way too mutually disruptive to warrant being called a "synthesis"). Maybe that's more like the relationship between a 'dialect' & an 'official' language — [and by the way, doesn't "the dialectic" typically end up in a synthesis]?  

 
On Tue, Nov 22, 2016 at 8:58 AM, Murat Nemet-Nejat <muratnn at gmail.com <mailto:muratnn at gmail.com>> wrote:
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I have known these week's guest participants or been familiar with their works for years. They have all been, directly or indirectly,  part of the Poetry Project poetry and art community. A spirit of adventure exploring the outer limits and possibilities each of his or her own media that has been the characteristic of the place since 1960's for fifty years permeates all of them.

I met Chris Funkhauser first in 1994 during a Poetry Project symposium on "Revolutionary Poetry." He and his friend Belle Gironde --both University of Albany students at the time-- along with three other young people had organized an "unofficial" workshop on "Poetry and Technology" that, if I remember correctly, had set up its tent out in the garden of the church. I was a member of the final panel that presented overviews of the symposium. As part of my preparation, I visited the workshop. I was so struck by what they were doing, by the spirit of Dada in their manifesto of the virtual --yes, the possibilities of a virtual poetry was infused with Dada mojo at the time-- that I spent a final, significant portion of my talk on that workshop. I felt what the workshop was saying contained a significant portion of the revolutionary spirit the symposium was searching for. Chris and I remained friends ever since. Interestingly, Bruce Andrews, the second guest participant this week, was another member of that panel also.

Here are two passages from "Takes or Mis-takes from the Revolutionary Symposium, The Poetry Project, May 5-8, 1994," the second being its ending. The talk consisted of quotations from the symposium (peppered with my reactions):

"What's the difference between God and virtual God?"
"Virtual God is real." It's the software programer.

"From The Poetry and Technology workshop: 'Give free shit to lure them…. Commodity lives," Eric Swensen, the 'Enema' of Necro Enema Amalgamated, producers of the manifesto BLAM!"

Bruce Andrew was with Charles Bernstein the co-editor of the ground breaking poetry magazine L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E which, as the "=" signs in the title implies, ushered a new attitude towards poetry and language. Letters, words relate more to each other than to a referential point outside. The result was the transforming (and influential on younger poets) poetry movement Language School of which Bruce is a key member. As a poet, I have had serious disagreements with strict (in my view, almost fundementalist) take on language the movement embodies. I come from the East (Turkey). Though equally exploring, my view of language is different, more sensual, based on movement than logic. I tried to bring these qualities to English language and American poetry though my concept of Eda. On the other, I must admit the poetry of my friends in the States inevitably bent the direction of my work. I believe Eda will do, and is already doing, the same even though though the effect is not totally visible yet.

There is one question I  would like very much Bruce to explore, if at all possible, among many others. The computer seems to create its own linguistic/communicative system. If verbal language also is basically a self-referential system, how do you see the possibility of exchange between these two entities? Is it at all, possible? If so, what has to bend to accommodate the other? In other words, is the relationship towards synthesis or always dialectical?

I saw Sally Silvers dance for the first time years ago during a Poetry Project New Years' Day Marathon. I was immediate struck by the uniqueness and originality of her dance. Over the years I tried to answer that question because I felt it said something important, not only about but beyond dance. Gradually, a picture emerged. Even watching avant-garde or "experimental" dancers, I always feel that their movements are rehashed, coming out of a repertoire of established avant grade movements. There was nothing of that in Sally Silver's dancing. Every movement was itself, nothing  more, nothing less. The movements had a solidity, embodying the reality of gravity that run through them and shaped them. That earth bound clarity was a thrilling thing to see. I am looking forward to what she has to say about dance or anything else.

All the Empyre members, welcome to the fourth week.

Ciao,
Murat

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empyre forum
empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au <mailto:empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au>
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empyre forum
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-- 
Dr. Christopher T. Funkhouser
Program Director, Communication and Media
Department of Humanities
New Jersey Institute of Technology
University Heights
Newark, NJ 07102
http://web.njit.edu/~funkhous <http://web.njit.edu/%7Efunkhous>
funkhous at njit.edu <mailto:funkhous at njit.edu>_______________________________________________
empyre forum
empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
http://empyre.library.cornell.edu

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