The tension between the book as individual copy and as mass reproduced object is reframed and even collapsed in samizdat literature, the illegally copied and circulated typescripts that created an entire world of literary and intellectual life in the late-Soviet period. Samizdat texts were reproduced, four or five copies at a time through the act of retyping and the use of carbon copy. In these works, the acts of writing, copying, and publishing effectively fuse.
Beginning in the 1970s, conceptual writer and artist Dmitri Prigov sought to investigate the relationship between text and copy in laboriously reproduced samizdat texts, which in spite — in fact because — of their poor quality became fetishized objects for members of the Soviet samizdat community. Prigov exploited the nature of the samizdat text to produce singular works in which the materiality of the book plays a key role. At the same time, he stressed the relationship between the writer and copyist, between unique work and reproduction in samizdat book culture.
In “Miss Scarlett,” Place appropriates Gone with the Wind in a more overtly discomforting way than in her “White Out”:
Dey’s fightin’ at Jonesboro, Miss Scarlett!
Dey say our gempmums is gittin’ beat.
Oh, Gawd, Miss Scarlett! Whut’ll happen ter
Maw an’ Poke? Oh, Gawd, Miss Scarlett! Whut’ll happen
ter us effen de Yankees gits hyah? Oh,
Gawd—Ah ain’ nebber seed him, Miss Scarlett.
No’m, he ain’ at de horsepittle.
Let’s note (with Brian Reed) that a poem like “Miss Scarlett” is written for our digital world of searchable copies. Because of these digital copies, readers can type a phrase into Google and quickly locate the source text: in this case, all the words spoken the maid Prissy in a section of Gone with the Wind.
Paal Bjelke Andersen Vanessa asked me to suggest someone to write to, I immediately thought of you two: Marco because of what you read when we meet in Paris—an elaboration of some accidents in Mexico's contemporary history—and where you are living, at the crossroad of the US and Mexico, in Tamaulipas; Robert because of your fascination for the surface of the American cities—a fascination I never have really understood until I went to Los Angeles in August and saw the eclectic series of private homes, one building looking as if the owner wanted to live in a house from a Brother Grimms fairytale, while the neighboring house looked like a miniature Mexican hacienda (at least to my Norwegian eyes). I the context of “Global conseptualism” thought it could be interesting to pair this with the place I come from: a social democratic, post-war optimistic, homogeneous Norway where the welfare state now is consequently reduced to a neo-liberal society.
The following is an occassional dialogue composed for this occassion. Derek Beaulieu and Natalia Fedorova may not have met apart from the artifice of this conversation. Nonetheless, there is a conceit of some commonality of interest and points of divergence. This is part two of the series.
Derek Beaulieu Both my concrete poetry and my conceptual writing focus on distancing myself from subjective representation. I am fascinated by Place and Fitterman’s idea of the Sobject and by Goldsmith’s proclamation that “I am interested in subjectivity, just not my own.” Goldsmith argues that Conceptual writing is only the 2nd truly international writing movement, coming approximately 50 years after the formulation of Concrete Poetry.
Natalia FedorovaSobjectivity translated into the post-soviet reality will read: “re-politicization of the form” as a key tendency in reanimating conceptualist ostranenie of the language from the official propaganda. History is recycling itself in the absurd Kafka-esque Pussy Riot trial that calls for the same methods today as in the Soviet times.