The term “Gothic” is marvelously, if disconcertingly, fluid, designating at times both barbarian horde and proto-nationalist regime, pagan chieftain and Christian theocrat, aesthetic atrocity and high art; thus to speak of the “translational Gothic” is to speak of both the wild mutations possible through “infidel” translation and the wild translations implicit in the survival of the term Gothic itself. John Ruskin describes the Gothic as “the rough mineral … submitted to [the analysis] of the chemist, entangled with many other foreign substances, itself perhaps in no place pure, or ever to be obtained or seen in purity for more than an instant.” He nevertheless thinks that this instant — knit into the mess of centuries — is definable, much like Walter Benjamin’s faith in a translation that only momentarily, fleetingly touches upon the meaning of the original — or the meaning of “originality,” for that matter.
According to Chilean poet Juan Luis Martínez’s groundbreaking art object La nueva novela (The New Novel, 1977), “The universe is a phantom’s effort to become reality.” In July 2014 I found that phantom. His name is Juan (Luis) Martinez and he is a retired journalist and aid worker for the International Committee of the Red Cross.
My last post explored book artists who work conceptually using print-on-demand technology, but the use of conceptual methodologies extends to those who work in hand-made books as well.
This summer and fall, I have spent time in special collections at the University of Washington (partly in preparation for the Affect and Audience in the Digital Age symposium, and partly to find books for my spring workshop).
So what might a conceptual, print-on-demand artist's book look like?
Several contemporary writers are using the form of pre-existing books as a container for innovative publishing experiments that they can make available at a reasonable price thanks to POD and affordable printing options. Like the pod people in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, these new books resemble their sources externally, but diverge dramatically in content, which involves erasure and writing-through. They are also facilitated by the availability of digital editions of these books which provide a searchable, scrapable, alterable source.
The following are not all print-on-demand publications, but they take on trade paperback form in ways that intrigue me:
A conversation with kevin mcpherson eckhoff where I speak in italics and he speaks in normal.
You didn’t even write this! You solicited participants to contribute to “their biography” of you. Or as you term it in the subtitle, “an organism of relationships amassed by and about the object often identified as kevin mcpherson eckhoff.” Maybe that’s a definition that works for literature or a poem: “an organism of relationships amassed by & about the object often identified as [literature or poem]. Except there’d have to be something about end rhymes and the soul.
The end of the soul is synonymous with exceptions. Synonyms are a kind of rhyme. Relationships dynamic create errors of within, and this betweenness of everything is a reality field of meaningful electrons. As a human invention, poetry mitigates such betweens. I suspect bpNichol may have seen poems as such halfway points. The not-quite-you plus not-quite-me is what breathes within the enclosures of words. Words are actions. Actions alone won’t save us. Redemption isn’t a hidden MEaning or a hidden YOUaning, but an ever-apparent WEaning. Spoiler alert: I cheated & read ahead!