Commentaries - September 2011

CONT3XT.NET is everything

Content | Form | Im-material – Five Years of CONT3XT.NET
Content | Form | Im-material – Five Years of CONT3XT.NET

 Internet-based writing and art works emerge from, refer to, and thus must be understood within the complex context of the internet, which is in fact a conglomeration of contexts operating in concert (or not). For their function and for their intelligibility internet-based works are dependant upon the internet and all its vagaries, from the constraints of its physical infrastructure to the menace of its crawling bots, from the Babel babble of its code languages to the competing messages of its surface contents. How can works created for and within this highly provisional, seemingly immaterial, endlessly re-combinatory context be read, watched or understood in any other?

 This is precisely the question that the Vienna-based collective CONT3XT.NET has been relentlessly asking of itself and of others over the past five years. Co-foundes Sabine Hochrieser, Michael Kargl, Birgit Rinagl, and Franz Thalmair take a translation approach to curatorial practice, exploring new creative territories and practices oscillating between the virtual and the real by reformulating the immateriality of the internet into the physicality of paper, space, performance or other public presentations. On their website they state: “Always starting from the idea of the context as the most indecisive and variable but relevant constraint of any situation, the collective analyses the spatial, temporal, discursive as well as the institutional framework that conceptual artistic practices are rooted in today.” Over the past five years they have collaborated with a wide range of media artists, theorists, curators and writers working at the nexus of contemporary visual, textual and networked practices to develop networked projects, exhibitions, publications, lectures and public presentations.

The experience around the experiments

In French, the word for experiment is expérience, and thus the idea of carrying out an experiment is closely linked with the idea of undergoing an experience. So one may wonder as to what kind of experiments are going on around poetry that help foster not only the poetry itself but also help others experience it. In Canada,  some of the more daring and current essays/essais in poetic publishing, poetic mentoring and poetic diffusion include BookThug and The Toronto New School of Writing, Le Quartanier in Montreal, No press in Calgary and Nomados Press in Vancouver. 

Run out of Toronto, BookThug is a restless thug! Poet and collaborator Jay MillAr began publishing chapbooks in 1992, under the name Boondoggle Books and eleven years later, transformed Boondoggle Books into BookThug, publishing (and at times re-issuing) tradebooks, chapbooks and other ephemera of poetry, fiction, essays and Danish literature in translation, with a vision to enrich and evolve the tradition and conversation of experimental literature.

Ocean leveling the land

Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, Global Warming, & the Marshall Islands

High tide season on the Marshall Islands. Photo by Nick Wardrop
High tide season on the Marshall Islands. Photo by Nick Wardrop

Kaia Sand

Ideas, poets?

I queried poets in my commentary “An Ellsbergian task for poets,” reflecting on the language shortcomings of the terms “climate change” and “global warming.” How might poets bring creative language skills to full-force to motivate action toward a climate phenomenon that is mostly in the future? I was grateful, then, to receive an email from poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, forwarded by Jacket2 editor Jessica Lowenthal. Jetnil-Kijiner began with a Marshallese greeting, “Iakwe,” and described her “urge to respond” to my query:

“I don't have the term you're looking for regarding a more poetic terminology for climate change,” she wrote. “However, being a resident of the Marshall Islands, a tiny atoll that is currently being swallowed up by the sea, I've written a poem on what I'd like the world to know about how some of us Marshall Islanders feel about climate change.”

Intrigued, I followed Jetnil-Kijiner's link to the poem, “Tell Them.”

Ron Silliman on the archive

I re-read Ron Silliman’s June 4, 2010, blog post yesterday with renewed excitement and trepidation. He describes a personal archive of recordings of poetry readings that is remarkable (for its size and range) but also alas typical in the sense that there is no economy to support its being made available — or even for its preservation. If you read what Ron has to say here please be sure to look also at Steve Fama's comment.

Clubs and Societies Project

Red Room at MWF

Clubs and Societies badge
Red Room's Clubs and Societies badge

Clubs and Societies is the latest project of Sydney-based poetry organisation The Red Room Company. Last weekend I saw some results from this project at the Melbourne Writer's Festival. The concept is to link a poet with a club or society, and to commission them to write a poem about this contact. The two examples on display were poets Ali Alizadeh (assigned the Existentialist Society) and Omar Musa (Motor Gliding Club), who performed their poems at the event. The brains behind such Red Room schemes is Johanna Featherstone, who MC'd.