Commentaries - July 2011

Online survey

The following is a brief survey of four projects - The Tolerance Project, Project Rebuild, endpipe line and The Apostrophe Engine - that either use a website as an interactive forum of collaborative work or collaborate with the web itself to generate work.

A few notes on the cultural cold war

Here's my introduction to a session featuring readings for the Rothenberg/Joris Poems for the Millenium back in 1998. In my 11-minute intro I tried to do something a little more than my usual brief, get-out-of-the-way segue to the main presenters. I wanted to say something in particular about Jerome Rothenberg's passage (as a young poet) through the cultural cold war. I make reference, for instance, to his discovery at the University of Michigan that in the 1950s Whitman was definitely on the outs — that Whitmanism in the 1950s was academically (if not also otherwise) dangerous. (To get to my comments about Rothenberg in the 50s, you can go immediately to a point halfway through the recording.)

Crosswalks & intersections

Image by Noah Saterstrom

While I was listening to the following recordings, I kept thinking about how my friend Noah Eli Gordon used to love finding yield-to-pedestrian crosswalks when we both lived in Western Massachusetts, and how much he enjoyed simply being able to walk across the street without worrying about being crushed by a huge SUV. (We had both grown up in different parts of the sprawling Midwest where cars never stopped for pedestrians.) I don’t want to dwell too much on this personal association, but listening to each of these recordings recreated some version of that feeling of being struck by a small moment of unexpected freedom in the immediate environment.

It’s not that these recordings are full of unequivocal happiness or unchecked optimism (there’s plenty of complication, violence, distress, and danger hovering around them all), but that they temporarily create spaces for the listener to experience the interplay of phenomena, a listening-feeling that acknowledges complexity and flux but doesn’t make one feel a sensory overload (though I love recordings that do that too).

Christian & the plains

video portrait of Christian Bok

Christian Bök
I met up with Christian and Brigitte a few days earlier. We had met at the noisy lounge at his hotel on West 55th and walked over to the Mandarin Oriental lobby sky bar overlooking Central Park. But it was too dark to take any pictures. I saw Christian again at Kenny's on New Year's Day. Cheryl's studio was fairly quiet and the light was right.
January 1, 2008

Commons as folds

How can we once again common a commons?

“What is your address?

you are everywhere

and nowhere at once” (Anarchive, 71) An address, as physical location, necessarily connotes boundaries, ownership, enclosure. Land is demarcated and receives an address, a name and number, so that it can be owned, so that it can enter into an economy of production and consumption. But as you, dear Stephen Collis, through your multi-volume, on-going work, “The Barricades Project,” turn the address back into an address, into speech, into the spoken toward someone, I, among many, find myself addressed and become part of this spoken which is not enclosed, not monetarily and economically situated, and which moves. And the spoken that you evoke between us, dear Collis, is not in straight lines, it meanders land and lexicons and authors, swims in rivulets, gets tangled in brambles.