[-empyre-] Welcome to OCTOBER (t0ny's feminalist collaborations)

Margaret Rhee mrheeloy at gmail.com
Tue Oct 8 06:47:27 AEDT 2019

Thank you Paige, David, Kathleen for your vital contributions and insights.
It was a rich and memorable conversation, honoring Tony Conrad and your
multiple practices. I hope we can continue this dialogue in this next week
of Poetry and Play.

I’m honored to introduce the following poets to this week who play across
poetry and other artforms; such as the visual art of Truong Tran, textiles
work of Maria Damon, graphic design interventions of Kenji Liu and
experimental films by Lynne Sachs and her new collection YEAR BY YEAR
POEMS just
released by Tender Bottons Poetry.

The artists this week express a range of practices in conversation with
poetry. Building upon this notion of play, and other issues that emerged
such as logics and academic capitalism for example, we’re honored to hear
further from this week’s participants to share about their work and
practices of play in multiple genres and poetics. I placed their bios
below, and the description of the forum. Thank you Truong, Lynne, Kenji,
and Maria for joining us.


Truong Tran is a poet and visual artist. He received his MFA from San
Francisco State University in 1995 in the field of writing. He is the
author numerous volumes of poetry. He is a self taught visual artist whose
work has been exhibited in venues including the California Historical
Society, California Institute of Integral Studies, SOMArts Gallery,
Telegraph Hill Gallery and The San Francisco International Art Market Art
Fair, Avenue 12 Gallery and The Peninsula Museum of Art. Truong lives in
San Francisco and teaches at Mills College.

Lynne Sachs makes films and writes poems that explore the intricate
relationship between personal observations and broader historical
experiences. Her work embraces hybrid form and combines memoir with
experimental, documentary, and fictional modes. In recent years, she has
expanded her practice to include live performance with moving image. Lynne was
first exposed to poetry by her great aunt as a child in Memphis,
Tennessee.  Soon she was frequenting workshops at the local library and
getting a chance to learn from poets like Gwendolyn Brooks and Ethridge
Knight. As an active member of Brown University’s undergraduate poetry
community, she shared her early poems with fellow poet Stacy Doris. Lynne later
discovered her love of filmmaking while living in San Francisco where she
worked with artists Craig Baldwin, Bruce Conner, Barbara Hammer, Carolee
Schneeman, and Trinh T. Minh-ha.  Lynne has made thirty-five films which
have screened at the New York Film Festival, the Sundance Film Festival,
the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Walker
Art Center, and the Wexner Center for the Arts. Festivals in Buenos Aires,
Beijing and Havana have presented retrospectives of her work. Lynne received
a 2014 Guggenheim Fellowship. She lives in Brooklyn. In October, Tender
Buttons Press, which publishes experimental women's and gender-expansive
poetry, is releasing Lynne's book YEAR BY YEAR POEMS (2019) which is now
available through Small Press Distribution.

Kenji C. Liu is a visual artist and author of *Monsters I Have Been* (Alice
James Books, 2019) and *Map of an Onion*, national winner of the 2015
Hillary Gravendyk Poetry Prize (Inlandia Institute). His poetry is in
numerous journals, anthologies, magazines, and two chapbooks, *Craters: A
Field Guide* (2017) and *You Left Without Your Shoes* (2009). An alumnus of
Kundiman, VONA/Voices, Djerassi Resident Artist Program, and the Community
of Writers, he lives in occupied Tongva land, where he lectures in Asian
American Studies at UCLA, Art at Occidental College, and manages creative
place-keeping initiatives in Little Tokyo.

Maria Damon teaches in the Department of Humanities and Media Studies and
in the Department of Writing at the Pratt Institute of Art. She holds a
Ph.D. in Modern Thought and Literature from Stanford University and a B.A.
from Hampshire College, and taught for many years in the Department of
English at the University of Minnesota.  She is the author of *The Dark End
of the Street: Margins in American Vanguard Poetry*(University of Minnesota
Press, 1994) and *Postliterary America: From Bagel Shop Jazz to
Micropoetries*(University of Iowa Press, 2011), both of which explored the
edges of “poetry” from alternative canons to subcultural imaginative verbal
practices. She co-edited (with Ira Livingston) *Poetry and Cultural
Studies: A Reader*(University of Illinois Press, 2009). She has published a
number of online multi-media/poetry projects with mIEKAL aND, which have
also been published as print books: *Literature Nation*(Potes & Poets),
which was the first full-length hypertext poem online;
*pleasureTEXTpossession*(Xexoxial Editions); and *eros/ion*(Ntamo) –all of
which (and a few more) can be found at http://joglars.org/multidex.html.
She has also collaborated with Adeena Karasick, Alan Sondheim, Michelle
Goldblatt, and Jukka-Pekka Kervinen. Her scholarship has been
published in *American
Literary History*, *SAQ*, *Cultural Studies*, *Cultural Critique*, *Postmodern
Culture*, *Modern Fiction Studies*, *jacket2*, *Xcp: Cross-cultural Poetics*
, *Cybertext Yearbook*, *Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies*, *Electronic
Book Review*, etc., as well as in a number of books of essays on subjects
such as performed poetry, cultural Jewishness, modernist American poetry,
queer beat poetry, diasporic avant-gardes, and individual writers such as
Bob Kaufman, Jack Spicer, Gertrude Stein and (forthcoming) Nathaniel
Mackey. She edited a special section (focused on the work of Bob Kaufman)
for a special issue on jazz poetics of *Callaloo*.

She also has a practice as a textile worker in weaving and counted
cross-stitch, and has produced two chapbooks of “x-stitch vispo”
(cross-stitch visual poetry): *meshwards*(Dusie Kollektiv, 2011 and
http://www.dusie.org/Damon%20Meshwards.pdf) and *XXX*(nous-zot, 2015). Her
work has been exhibited in various visual poetry and/or text/textile shows.

On Practice and Play: Gestures Across Genres

In this month's -empyre- forum, we take up the question of productivity and
and the politics of play, and how playing across genres, mediums, forms,
disciplines, and departments, etc. makes for new kinds of innovative art,
thinking, and community; and in doing so, better intervenes and gestures
toward transformative futures. The current conspiracy-us versus them-
culture perhaps exemplifies the problem of singular thinking and the need
for creative, eclectic, and innovative practices more than ever. We’re
interested in artists, thinkers, and activists with practices that cross
over boundaries and intervene in dichotomous logics. With attention to
justice, we explore how multiple forms of art practices prompt us to
reimagine different kind of worlds, as strategy and survival. Initially
inspired by Tony Conrad's work, his practice spans across film, music,
writing, and sculptures, we playfully ask how play lends itself to more
libratory ways of creation and practice.

We begin with the first week on media and new media art in conversation.
with Tony Conrad's playful work across mediums, we then move into a second
week asking questions on poetry and playing across the visual, cinematic,
and theoretical, the third week is dedicated to the theme of ethnography
across forms such as photography, film, and poetry, the forth week focuses
on the ways artists advocate for decolonial and racial resistance through
playing across genres and forms. While seemingly diverse, we hope the
loosely organized topics will lend itself to connections between the weeks,
and across the genres and themes presented. With attention to questions
such as capital, creativity, institutional critique, and justice, we’re
honored to have the following artists and thinkers join us for this
conversation and reflect on the possibilities of practice, gestures, and

We also invite our -empyre- subscribers, whose own work broadly resonates
with the themes of practice and play, to join the conversation. What are
the ways your practice has played or plays across genres? Have you faced
institutional challenges in crossing disciplinary divides, and if so, how
did you overcome them? Is play and practice productive? We explore this
topic of play through four loose themes. We welcome our guests and all
-empyre- subscribers to actively participate and post this month and share
your practices and experiences of playing across genres and any questions
that arise. We look forward to the conversation.

On Mon, Oct 7, 2019 at 5:11 AM David Grubbs <bluesea at dragcity.com> wrote:

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Kathy, your story about your experiences of Tony and hypnosis . . . as
> ever with Tony, I'm at one and the same time genuinely surprised (I
> guess I never discussed the subject of hypnosis with Tony) and also
> having another "of course!" moment -- of course Tony was experienced
> in hypnosis . . .
> One thread that I'd like to pull out of these conversations has to do
> with a kind of on/off toggle into and out of performing.  I was
> interested in hearing Paige talk about what changed once someone --
> and it turned out that it was always Tony, hmm -- pressed the record
> button, how that inflected a certain kind of play that was already in
> progress.  Spending time with Tony sometimes I felt that the play was
> continuous -- always "on" even if in something that we'd now recognize
> as sleep mode -- with different modes of performance occurring, often
> in hilariously discontinuous fashion.  That also makes me think of the
> different ways of being in a multitude of situations, many of which as
> referenced in these conversations responding to mores within academia.
> I will say that the first time I ever saw Tony seem like his head was
> going to explode was one afternoon in 1998 when we were driving around
> Buffalo in an April snowstorm looking for materials for an impromptu
> recording session, Tony perfectly sanguine driving in to-me harrowing
> conditions but nearly losing it when given the slightest bit of
> runaround by someone in charge of checking out equipment at the
> university.  (I remember thinking that his blood pressure had gone up
> when we set foot on campus.)
> Best,
> D
> On Sun, Oct 6, 2019 at 11:59 PM Margaret Rhee <mrheeloy at gmail.com> wrote:
> >
> > ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> > Hello Kathleen and everyone for your posts, and thoughtful responses and
> this conversation.
> >
> > While this week's play seemingly ends tomorrow, I hope we can continue
> the rich and heartening discussion on Tony's influence on practices, logics
> of capital, and living. So much of what was said is resonating, and I'm so
> appreciative to everyone for their perspectives, insights and convergences
> made. Thinking now of Kathleen’s work with wearable electronics of her
> "Urban Armor" series and the exciting playful ways the work plays around
> with the notion of fashion and machines. It reminds me of artist Maria de
> Los Angeles's work on wearable dresses of the undocumented, which we'll
> hear from in Week Four. It's exciting to rethink objects and the
> materiality of work that holds concepts.
> >
> > As someone who also plays across art, poetry, and scholarly practices,
> in response to Kathleen's question, much of the work on play really stems
> from a generative conversation with Renate on the forum and how what is
> really moving and resonant for me was Tony's movement and playfulness
> across form.
> >
> > I'm also thinking about what Kathy's insights onTony's desire to build
> artist community in Buffalo and the greatness of rust belt cities in WNY
> like Troy, and how being in spaces that are livable and offers a time for
> sustainable practices. How it also makes sense that the practice of being
> an artist isn't only about making, but the kind of living that we do.
> Perhaps this notion of home. I feel this connects so well to Paige's
> comments on the "virtues of being tinkers" yet, "I don't want to cede
> anything, nor did tony, to the logic of hierarchy when it comes to the
> power of what we do."
> >
> > I think this is a conundrum faced given now the fast sexiness of
> 'digital humanities' for example. While ten years ago, as a graduate
> students, I was actively discouraged by many advisors to pursue community
> based digital work (specifically my collaborative project in the San
> Francisco Jail on digital storytelling with incarcerated women of color).
> Now, I have colleagues talk about wanting to make digital projects simply
> because its "new," and I can't help but also understand the logics of
> academic capitalism being in place.
> >
> > I'm not sure how to distinguish except, I and others didn't necessarily
> create things because of academic capital, but we were interested in new
> things, and dismantling logics of hierarchy.
> >
> > We know how technology and new media work is never benign nor innocent.
> We can think of funding practices, patriarchy, and hierarchies and the
> importance of refusing institutional logics of commodification.
> > How to? While we maintain the power of play and her interventions? More
> questions than answers perhaps, but I'm glad the forum has brought up
> questions around logics, hierarchies, and yes, hypnosis too.
> >
> > On Fri, Oct 4, 2019 at 8:13 PM Kathleen McDermott <
> katmariemcdermott at gmail.com> wrote:
> >>
> >> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> >> Hello all,
> >>
> >> So great to read all of your thoughts! Thank you Nina for sharing your
> work I enjoyed looking at it. And thank you Paige, David, and Kathy for
> sharing insights into yours and Tony’s practices.
> >>
> >>
> >> I’ll continue on this question of play in creative practice because I
> find it super interesting. I do not think an element of playfulness in
> creative practice excludes rigor or structure. However I do think in
> frameworks centered on productivity, it is often perceived as less-than or
> as a poor use of time. Play is an enormous privilege, many of us never feel
> we should play or can play. (The issue of motherhood and time definitely
> comes up here). I attended a panel yesterday at the NY public library
> regarding comics as a medium for inclusion, (titled “welcome to the nerd
> palace!”) and one of the questions asked from the audience centered around
> how to convince parents that it was ok to let kids read comics, (was it
> like letting them eat candy?) A panelist who was also a librarian responded
> that she thought there were echoes of capitalism in how we view student
> reading lists— that even regarding children we fret that they should always
> be consuming media that is productive and has been sanctioned. And yet
> comics provide a space for so many children who feel othered... A
> digression but I guess I take heart in the idea that even if play isn’t
> explicitly productive (though I believe it very often is), it can be ok to
> engage in it.
> >>
> >>
> >> But mostly I do see it as productive, as requiring rigor and as
> approaching the area of experimentation, in a way that is valid but not in
> a scientific method sense. Because different structures work for different
> people.
> >>
> >>
> >> But I do very easily slide into doubt on this. I see the possible
> danger, in the Arts, where we are often having to convince the broader
> institution of our expertise and our rigor. And it can certainly be
> dangerous territory to question “expertise,” in a general climate that has
> become so anti-academic, anti-expert. So arguing for play can be a very
> tricky boundary to walk.
> >>
> >>
> >> Would love to hear others’ thoughts on how and whether they attempt to
> balance rigor with play in practice. Margaret, does this come up in your
> work?
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >> On Fri, Oct 4, 2019 at 12:17 PM High, Kathy <highk at rpi.edu> wrote:
> >>>
> >>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> >>> Hello Paige and all,
> >>>
> >>> I thank you Paige for this entry - and all the entries which I have
> followed with great interest.
> >>>
> >>> But I must speak up here - as I feel like maybe I am a representative
> of the last generation of actual "posers" in academia akin to Tony Conrad.
> This ilk will not be able to continue after my generation. And - like my
> immigrant father who also posed and taught graduate business school
> students at Penn State while he only had a 6th grade education, and so many
> others I admire! - we have figured out a way to move through these systems
> that are now dominated by institutional risk aversion regulations and more!
> >>>
> >>> Of course, I have to admit that Tony was my advisor in graduate school
> at UB and we stayed in touch since my graduation in 1981. Tony wonderfully
> taught me how to teach, how to play and how to make art.
> >>>
> >>> I received a MA in Humanities (what is that?) from UBuffalo in 1981 -
> and we were told by the University of Buffalo that once they got their MFA
> program approval our degrees would be "turned into MFAs". Years later then
> the MFA came on board I wrote to the administration to request this change
> in my degree - but alas. I was told I would have to reregister, and take
> all kinds of courses to actually qualify for the MFA. So be it. No MFA for
> me. So, I have basically faked it through my career with a non-terminal
> degree all this time. And now - ironically, I advise PhD students!
> >>>
> >>> But that is not why I am writing.
> >>>
> >>> I wanted to post because of something Paige said about Tony and how
> SoS and other things "made Buffalo his home." I had a great conversation
> with Tony about 12+ years ago while he visited Troy after a talk he gave at
> RPI. He lamented the fact that so many of his fellow faculty members in his
> department were living in NYC and commuting to Buffalo to teach - leaving a
> hole in the actual Buffalo community which could have been thriving had
> they been in situ. He had tried to start community studios to encourage
> living communities, but to no avail. Tony really loved what these
> outskirts, somewhat ruined and fringe communities had to offer to us all -
> like Buffalo. An opportunity for freedom from financial burden (inexpensive
> rents, affordable food and schooling, etc.). Which also translated into
> time! And a place where communities can really come together to change
> opportunities - like with the aspirations of SoS. I have taken this to
> heart living and working now in another rust belt upstate city, Troy NY!
> >>>
> >>> In the 1980s, I worked with Tony and Tony Billoni, and Chris Hill, and
> others in a hypnotist club - which was amazing. Tony C. and I were both
> good hypnotists. And thus we started this "club" -  a kind of thing that
> rarely exists today. As a group we met and held experiments where we tried
> to hypnotize each other, and see what results we could produce - which is
> weird and scary because when you hypnotize someone you exert control over
> them. But I never felt threatened by Tony - like I did so by many other men
> in those times (and most of the men at UB!) - to Paige's point of Tony's
> feminist awareness. To his credit, I started working with Tony at UB in the
> graduate program, after pioneering video artist Steina Vasulka left and
> moved to Sante Fe. She had been the only woman teaching in the program. I
> was devastated when she left. But Tony became - somehow and very
> organically - my mentor and super shaped who I am today. That was a gift@!
> >>>
> >>> In fact, Tony was the only person who ever was able to hypnotize me!
> He only got my arm to suspend upward - but that was a big deal! He was
> truly a magician! Ha!
> >>> In those moments we learned how to literally lean on each other and
> trust one another. And this was "community".
> >>>
> >>>
> >>> On 10/3/19, 8:02 PM, "empyre-bounces at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au on
> behalf of Paige Sarlin" <empyre-bounces at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au on
> behalf of p.sarlin at gmail.com> wrote:
> >>>
> >>>     ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> >>>     "Grateful for structures that make conversations possible." MR
> >>>
> >>>     Thanks K, M, and D.
> >>>
> >>>     Building on the thread about conversation and its association
> >>>     with/collapse into play, Studio of the Streets (SOS) seems like a
> >>>     great project to think with. What became an early example of
> >>>     relational and discursive "social practice"  actually began as the
> >>>     documentation of a protest to demand resources and space for public
> >>>     access television. As it was conceived by the members of The First
> >>>     Amendment Network for Public Access (with Chris Hill, Barbara
> >>>     Lattanzi, Julie Zando, Jody Lafond, Meg Knowles, and many others --
> >>>     including TC and Brian Springer), SOS weekly shoots were an
> attempt to
> >>>     encourage the people they encountered on the steps of City Hall to
> >>>     make their own TV. Eventually that goal fell by the wayside and TC,
> >>>     Cathy Steffan, and Ann Szyjika developed a careful choreography in
> >>>     order to produce and amplify conversations with the people of
> Buffalo.
> >>>     SOS's conversational/play was shaped by boundaries, struggles with
> >>>     authority, and institutions: from time constraints (they filmed on
> >>>     fridays and aired tuesdays) to the organizing efforts of hundreds
> of
> >>>     people to demand public access .... but it was also enabled by
> tony's
> >>>     employment as a professor at University at Buffalo. He’d been
> teaching
> >>>     at UB for many years, but he used to say that SOS made Buffalo his
> >>>     home.
> >>>
> >>>     I raise this because the notion of home that Margaret invoked is,
> for
> >>>     me, synonymous with conversation, a space or site for dialogue and
> >>>     discussion. That's what I need: interlocutors and structures for
> >>>     engaging with them. Call it a network, connections, friendships,
> >>>     relationships, "community" -- forms of association for
> conversation have to be
> >>>     produced, reproduced, and maintained. Like many privileged folks,
> i've
> >>>     been lucky to meet brilliant individuals and to carve networks out
> >>>     within academic institutions, but it's when I've tried to build
> them
> >>>     "outside of institutions" that's when those
> conversations-connections
> >>>     require work and resources to feel like play.
> >>>
> >>>     From this perspective, i don't think tony would have recognized
> himself as a
> >>>     "professional amateur". Rejecting the notion of
> professionalization at
> >>>     every turn, he was a student of boundaries and disciplines -- if
> only
> >>>     just to upend the conventions. He didn't have an MFA when he was
> hired
> >>>     at UB, most artists didn't. But he set about to learn "the
> culture" --
> >>>     having reading groups on post-structuralism and other academically
> >>>     fashionable material. (He was also hired to teach video having
> worked
> >>>     almost exclusively in 16mm). All power structures intrigued him. He
> >>>     took institution building quite seriously but in the context of the
> >>>     university, he was most committed to finding ways for his students
> to
> >>>     cohere as a group. He'd do anything to facilitate that and to keep
> the
> >>>     department limber and forward thinking in its offerings and hires.
> But
> >>>     the job was, first and foremost, an income. A "home base" from
> which
> >>>     to be a filmmaker, video artist, musician, writer, artist, and a
> >>>     teacher (or "polymath" -- a term he never used to describe
> himself).
> >>>
> >>>     The current conditions of academia mean that artists are hired or
> >>>     expected to satisfy the never-ending imperatives of
> >>>     "interdisciplinarity."  Artists must write, theorize, perform,
> >>>     produce, instruct, tutor, and criticize across media to be legible
> to our
> >>>     administrations and hiring committees. This multi-modal status
> (with
> >>>     all of its apparently boundary challenging playful potential) has
> >>>     become a professional requirement.
> >>>
> >>>     I'm neck deep in this -- I have the degrees, check the boxes, and
> now
> >>>     I teach in a department with a PhD in practice where we're in the
> >>>     business of producing professionals in the mold of
> >>>     trickster, multi-modal, institution-challenging mavericks. From
> where
> >>>     I sit -- it's worrisome how well and easily "the celebration/power
> of
> >>>     play" fits into the very logic or authority it has the capacity to
> >>>     flout. I'm all for celebrating the virtues of being tinkerers and
> >>>     undisciplined but never an amateur. I don't want to cede anything,
> nor
> >>>     did tony, to the logic of
> >>>     hierarchy when it comes to the power of what we do.
> >>>
> >>>     Paige Sarlin, Ph.D. (she/her)
> >>>     Assistant Professor / Department of Media Study / University at
> Buffalo/SUNY
> >>>     p.sarlin at buffalo.edu / paigesarlin.info
> >>>     _______________________________________________
> >>>     empyre forum
> >>>     empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
> >>>     http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
> >>>
> >>> _______________________________________________
> >>> empyre forum
> >>> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
> >>> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
> >>
> >> _______________________________________________
> >> empyre forum
> >> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
> >> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
> >
> > _______________________________________________
> > empyre forum
> > empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
> > http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
> --
> David Grubbs
> Professor of Music
> Performance and Interactive Media Arts (PIMA)
> Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center, CUNY
> http://pima-brooklyncollege.info
> Coming soon:
> Anthony McCall & David Grubbs, Simultaneous Soloists (Pioneer Works Press)
> https://pioneerworks.org/publishing/simultaneous-soloists/
> The Underflow, The Underflow (Corbett vs. Dempsey)
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu


Margaret Rhee, Ph.D.

College Fellow in Digital Practice (2018 - 2019)
Department of English
Harvard University

Assistant Professor in Media Theory (2019)
Department of Media Study
SUNY Buffalo
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