Guest writer: Rob Fitterman
A WORD OR TWO ON JOSEF KAPLAN’S EXTRAORDINARY INTRODUCTIONS TO SEGUE SERIES POETRY READINGS
by Robert Fitterman
In David Joselit’s new critical book, After Art, he adopts the term “image fundamentalism” to describe a relationship to art that aims to be rooted to a “specific place.” He writes: “Religious fundamentalism is defined by adherence to doctrine, as laid down in sacred texts. Image fundamentalism asserts that a visual artifact belong exclusively to a specific site (its place of origin).” What, then, would literary fundamentalism look like? My point here is that Kaplan’s introductions are unchained to their origins, and, as such, they are the polar opposites of literary fundamentalism. Following Joselit’s premise, Kaplan lets the work of the writer he is about to introduce dictate a slippery procession, where the reader gets to traverse the unknown (and in this case the reader is the presenter). In exchange for a tired list of accomplishments, publications, and insights, Kaplan aims for another possibility: one reader’s world intersecting one writer’s world. Of course it is the seriousness, hilarity, courage, and thoughtfulness that makes us, the audience, interested in the performance of this intersection... an intersection, by the way, that overlaps the actual author’s work by as little as, say, 10%. But it doesn’t matter: this isn’t about being respectful or authentic or informative (can we say Google at home?), this is about actually caring enough to take the work—and a reader’s response to the work — somewhere else, not rooted to the original meaning or author’s intention or biography, but elsewhere. As such, I would say that Kaplan is not performing a poetry version of institutional critique per se (he’s not using the elements of our institutions ironically to reveal their agenda) but rather, I would posit that this performance is an institutional increase: a ridiculous term that I’m inventing to describe when an artist uses one of the conventions of her institution and explodes it. If you’ve ever heard someone do an introduction for a poet that is literally read off of a Google-searched biography, then you catch my drift. It is insulting to be praised in such a way; it is an honor to be hammered beautifully.
For Kristen's piece, click here: