Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Altered Book as Performing Text?

After Linh Dinh went to great lengths, for his journal, formatting a long excerpt of my altered book, Living Rooms, I've been thinking about the altered book as - beyond an artist's book - a performance of text. That the work, in this particular case, is constructed (in part) via statistical software I've been tweaking, questions emerge, not necessarily fully formed. The altered book in one sense is a killing off of that which, often enough, one either dislikes in its originally published state or loves beyond comprehension--for why otherwise alter that which one is inclined to attach "ironically bad" (reason 1) , "usefully outmoded," where "useful" here means "for appropriation, " (reason 2) or "aura" (reason 3) in the first place? The murderous retrofitting is also admittedly an erotic endeavor--this sort of impulse (or compulsion?) to mix somewhat violently. Nonetheless - to take the notion of "killing off" here and situated within an erotics/and or ritualization of the book, the act seems like so much sacrifice (on the one hand) and attempted resurrection (hope for rebirth) on the other. Of course, I'm a Jew, and a secular one at that, so what do I know?

What interested me this time--after doing a few book alterations already--was that the added use of machine meant that I turned otherness into otherness. Hell, after I wrote the program, and until I began to sculpt the thing, I simply pressed a button. And so viz. performative poetics on which I've written a great deal, the term "performance" was, through this process, complicated. Reading to self is a kind of performance, I'd argue, albeit of a not-so-elaborate or public sort. So, the term can stretch in all sorts of ways, and definitions are not particularly interesting to me. Rather, what kind of performance is the alteration process absent (or missing for much of the time) its author? It isn't, as in the case of much of the performative poetics on which I've written in the past, seeking the liminality between "poem" and "poem event," this anxiety the poem has of its status on the page, its book as no-longer-enoughness - or, the moment the poem becomes aware of its own discomfort as potentially obsolescent form. No, here is a reaching for ritual, almost a devolution back into the practices of the sacred (or sacrilegious). Or, since I am a Jew: its regression back into the room of rooms, The Book, as Jabes might have had it, the Talmudic practice of continual self-reimagining within the space it is (was) afforded.

Needs be more thought here. I think this has to do with LW: "I destroy, I destroy, I destroy." Which, in itself, is a religiously-inflected frustration with the impulse to masturbate, sometimes quite literally. And when the machine began to pray.... Hayles came out with another book.

So: more later - interested in thoughts. Meantime, from Linh Dinh's The Lower Half (thanks, Linh):

Excerpt w/o drawings & schematics [altered book: S. Weil, "Surgical Anatomy," 1901]

(relaxation, amplitude >16mz)

we rind round the spines & gutters
of the ischia

“won’t go much deeper than”

line B

drawn from

the anus as is

line A

as are lines D


F etc

gerald stern?
billy collins?
loop of bowel?
3 different volumes of robert frost?
herniated groin?
necrotic striations at the right upper tibialus?
three thousand clams for 15 min “visit” w/o happy ending

“Demands lateral incisions!”

“Implies lateral promotions!”

“Suggestive of lateral sclerosis!”

“Definition is always a pity!”

go to the rack
go in the direction of the C D
the pelvic fascia
the M P 3 the inject-able dialec-table
that aren’t

ad hering to

the base of the body

“The baseness of the body”

“The baseness of any body”

“The baseness of anybody”

enter orbital
or if thresh-
old keeps
questions & visions
make do
& like-
wise find no-
thing approxi-
mating barthian
bliss why is it that poetry is
at best

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