Saturday, 28 August 2010

Update of Sorts

The following is nicked from the mOnocle-Lash blog, but it doesn't hurt to throw it up here too as it's only partially publishing-bound. There are further updates there.

Until I have a home and full access to my files, archives, materials, workstation etc. mOnocle-Lash is still in half-gear. But things ARE moving, and here's a scattered and meandering update in-between 'official' website news posts, partly on current and future projects, partly on potential directions and focuses for mOnocle-Lash:

The Jeunes-France Bouzingo

Here, I shall be brief, for fear of being far too long-winded. Suffice to say that things procede swimmingly, as one can see by going HERE. This new Jeunes-France/Bouzingo website is not quite ready for official launch, but since this blog has only two regular readers, I doubt it will hurt to mention it here.

OSU Avant Writing Symposium

From Aug. 19-21, Ohio State University hosted one of the largest gatherings of visual poets, performance writers, avant-gardists, mail artists, and theorists, critics, and archivists of experimental writing in years, drawing attendees from across the US, Canada, Cuba, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Spain, and elsewhere. The symposium included over 40 lectures and performances (12 hours a day!) in three languages, several exhibitions, and various other activities.

A Post-Neo/Collab Fest delegation drove up from Roanoke, including Olchar Lindsann, Warren Fry, Jim Leftwich, Sue Leftwich, and Aaron Bensen; in Columbus we met up with Ohio Post-Neos Bela b. Grimm (our host), Imogene Engine, Aaron Andrews, and Tomislav Butkovic in from New Jersey for quite a strong Post-Neo showing. We were able to see old friends again, meet long-time ocllaborators for the first time, and begin new relationships. I'll not go into detail or I'll never finish, but among a great many stimulating presentations were Fluxus actions by Keith Buchholz and Reed Altemus, a very thought-provoking presentation by Lizabel Mónica on underground literary activity in Cuba (more below), some provocative questions regarding the efficacy of the avant-garde by William James Austin, a performance by the Be Blank Consort, several presentations on digital writing in South America, a fascinating and spirited presentation by Michael Peters of materials relating to Fleury Colon donated to the OSU Archive, superb performance-lectures by Geof Huth, Martin Gubins, and mIEKAL aND, a joint reading in memory of Thomas L. Taylor, a wonderful mail art show organised by C. Mehrl Bennett, Collab Fest organised by Jim Leftwich, also a lecture and performances by myself--and much, much more.

In addition, and more on-topic for this particular blog, was a store with stalls of material from 15 or 20 micro-presses focusing on experimental writing, including mOnocle-Lash. In addition to transactions carried on here, there was a large amount of direct trading among us. It was wonderful to see so much variety both in content and in publishing approach, especially as print becomes increasingly rare in micropress publishing. These exchanges include Reed Altemus' Tonerworks, mIEKAL aND's Xexoxial, Endwar's IZEN, Tom Cassidy's Musical Comedy Editions, Crag Hill's Meritage Press, and of course John Bennett's Luna Bisonte. There was much more that I have yet to check out. I've added links on the mOnocle-Lash webpage to some of these presses (as well as to some additional online presses), and plan to distribute catalogs of of some who do not have webpages along with outgoing packets.

mOnocle-Lash publications available there included the journals Synapse 4 and BARM 1; the anthology Lung Crackle; Imogene Engine's The Iuk Kide; b.b. Grimm & O.Lindsann's The Myopic Deathray; David Beris Edward's Mr. Rutabega & the Clockwork Mince; Megan Blafas' DadMama Baroness Paper Dolls; my The Ecstatic Nerve, Toward a Breathing Text, Ananchronism as Dissent, and Feral Pool; and the mOnocle-Lash catalog.

Some Thoughts on What's Next

As one would hope, I went into the symposium with certain thoughts in the back of my mind, and emerged with them at the front. The participation of many writers from Spanish-speaking countries--and in particular the presentation by Lizabel Mónica of Desliz on Cuban dissenting literature, conversations with her later in the weekend, and the accompanying packets of work and documentation that she brought along--helped to bring into focus a concern that I have had for some time, already made pointed by my interaction with Gleb Kolomiets' Slova in Russia and the linguistic and traditional complications that make up the fabric of mOnocle-Lash's own Bouzingo project. This concern is the isolation of the anglophone avant-garde.

I have for some time become increasingly impatient with the ethical and political complacency of marginal creative communities--what I would like to consider avant-gardes. My attempts both to think my own way out of this impasse and to goad the milieus with with I engage to more rigorous self-reflection and action in this regard are complex and have met with widely varying degrees of success so far. These attempts repeatedly pose the questions: How can we define, and then achieve efficacy? What must my own generation--those of us now entering our intellectual maturity and faced with a field of possible ways forward--achieve in order to re/establish a groundwork from which the avant-garde can become a social force rather than a literary-artistic genre? What must we address, and how?

These questions have been sharpened and recontextualized through my engagement with Gleb's Slova project and the group of writers, performers, and intellectuals with whose work I am slowly becoming familiar through it. As I interact further with communities across languages, in political situations vastly different from my own--realising along the way how deeply isolated my own Anglophone conception of the avant-garde community and tradition has become, and how difficult it is to overcome this limitation in the absence of adequate translation--this line of questioning solicits further and even more uncomfortable questions:

What can be the role of a Western, Euro-American Avant-Garde, especially an Anglophone avant-garde, which is in the final analysis an avant-garde of the undeserving elite? Of the only such communities who can afford to be "apolitical", or to choose to be otherwise, who have the privilege to risk complacence? To what extent does the Anglophone avant-garde reproduce within itself, unconsciously and hypocritically, the isolationism and nationalism of the society it wishes to subvert, an isolationism that takes the form of a blindness and an obliviousness to its own linguistic and political situation that is only possible when one speaks the language that is, after all, the literary equivalent of the Dollar, by which every other linguistic and literary currency is oriented and, all too often, devalued?

What are our responsibilities, and to whom? What are our unique resources, and how might they best be utilized in service of a vision of a truly global and transnational avant-garde?

And, most pointedly to the purpose of this particular blog, what role ought mOnocle-Lash to play in asking and then answering these questions, and providing platforms for response?

I am groping toward answers to the initial questions posed here, or more precisely toward a platform through which these questions might be asked. The most obvious and immediate answer is an increase of translated texts in Synapse and other venues; the practical issue of getting texts translated can come largely through increased dialogue and involvement with the communities themselves from which texts originate, and some hurdles might be overcome via the experiments in collaborative translation being carried out via the Bouzingo project.

But beyond this, platforms of exchange must be established through which these questions can be asked and answered within an international context. Here again I find excellent models in Slova (and the associated decentralized press Mycelium) and Desliz, both of them multifaceted projects, network-nodes whose focus is on facilitating exchange on local/national levels and on international/transnational levels simultaneously, both of them establishing a loose centre via journals that bring together poetic, artistic, and theoretical work from an array of nations and, to the extent possible, languages.

Desliz in particular uses the internet to host this wide range of discourse, creative work, documentation, announcements, calls for entries, etc and as the most effective way (despite its illegality in Cuba) to slip through national borders. Lizabel in fact upbraided me for this reason for having so little of the mOnocle-Lash material in pdf form. (I am in the long, slow process of digitizing--new publications will almost all appear simultaneously in both forms.) This kind of thing must be a long-term goal, but it is long-term.

In the meantime, there is at least one way in which the pervasiveness English can be turned against itself; as the language most commonly translated into and out of, it can serve as a kind of way-station of translation. A text translated from Russian to English may stand a better chance, on the underground level in which we work and if directed toward this purpose, of ending up in Spanish. Etc. etc. The same goes for discourse in general, including strategic exchange.

The most recent issue of Gleb's Slova includes a number of English texts translated into Russian, including SPART/Post-Neo's Nobody Go Anywhere Essays, and a number of Russian texts rendered into English. He's sent me a text detailing the current conditions of micropress and small press activity in Russia, which I'm waiting for an opportunity to publish. Lizabel's presentation last weekend, also translated, covers analogous territory. In both cases I have discussed potential translation/publication/distribution of work by others in their communities.

While I'd initially conceived of carrying these ideas out primarily in Synapse--and certainly there will be translations and quite possibly untranslated work in future issues--I am moving toward the notion of a separate journal, with an emphasis on expanding dialogue regarding these issues and resolving the challenges that avant-gardes and related communities face in their various contexts, evolving ways of coordinating internationally with an understanding of the very different resources and conditions that face cultural workers everywhere. What such a project might turn into would be decided organically as a result of this conversation.

This is where I am right now. Such a project as outlined above would not be put together until early next year (I still need to find a job, rent an apartment, and help establish an educational co-op this year...) I am on something of a precipice, and welcome ideas.