Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Poem Is Nothing - Yesterday Plus a Chax Press Postcript

Many thanks to curator Will Owen and to the other participants in "An Opening Is Nothing: Spatial Poetry" a show that opened last night at Ver(a)Art Gallery, as part of the Vera Project, Seattle. I'll post more thorough thoughts regarding the work later in the week, but for now, I want to recommend experiencing the installed poetry, making use of multiple media, each piece both responding in some way to Laura Riding Jackson's notion of the ethics of, or through, nothing (description below) while also standing alone as unique group of concerns, questions, experiments. Nico Vassilakis's installations were beautiful and absorb(ing) on the level of phoneme, materials from which the alpha-numeric emerges. He also performed a pretty awesome piece of phonetic sound poetry, reminding me (anyhow) of Robert Kocik's prosody work (his phoneme choir). And Nico had also installed visual b/w analogs of the soundings, with stills on one wall and b/w alpha-numeric closeup visual poetry on video on another wall--the video screen itself was tiny and was placed inconspicuously on a far wall adjacent steps leading down to a main room. The placement of this work was indicative of the way in which Will and poets played with a really angular / odd space, did so in a way that seemed to challenge participants to pay attention to the corners and the shadows and the ceilings etc., because there might very well be a gem of a work of art hiding on you. Hiding, such as Bethany Ides's tree of sound poems I bumped into rounding a corner--a stark, foliage-challenged small tree, the branches of which each had a small earpiece that played various polyvocal sound poems--I need to find out what the text is, etc., as the work sounded at times like Koran-as-sung, i.e., as traditionally read, and at other points like Greek Orthodox chant. A very cool work.

And Jeff Derksen's continued work I saw for the first time. For much more on the following description, go to this Nonsite Collective link, which describes Jeff's Nonsite talk, which again I heard was really good. It's a combination of research, multi-media project, set of talks, on urban corporatization, the disappearing commons, 21st century empowerment zoning (read: company town making), and last night we got a sliver of it in the form of a very large projection of color stills of shanty-towns and zones of coerced, close-quarter urban living (read: dying), with didactic but also slantedly didactic bold statements in white type overlaying the images regarding forced labor, wage-laboring under neoliberalism etc--didn't catch all the statements because we had to perform soon after arrival (we all got lost getting to the venue). Really interesting work, however, as Jeff's work tends to be most often. Finally, James Yeary performed a piece with former student of mine, a poets theater work that as I mentioned to James felt Cagean to me, and that made use of all manner of materials--from sliced apples (which we were offered) to mixed sound work, mixed I think by James, to large sheets of paper with various words that seemed to call-respond to the soundtrack and that also seemed to give the two players parameters within which to "play," to perform the work, otherwise purposefully un-rehearsed, driven by chance. The piece was pretty awesome and needs analysis. I loved the ephemerality of it and the triumphalism with regard to how it treated playfulness as against function, message, etc. I use triumphalism here, oddly, as compliment. It's refreshing to hear a work that inspires free play (within a field of constraint) and that takes these behaviors as rightly important, perhaps vital, even necessary for survival.

Maledetto itself went OK, tho we'd come back to the piece after a long layoff (due to scheduling of the ensemble, break etc) and that showed: many flubs, especially by yours truly. Since we've only been working on this score since very late Sept, and since decoding the score is an undertaking prior even to full-fledged rehearsal, I can't complain about where we are. I think as we give ourselves three or four more months with the piece, rehearsing two times a week, we'll be able to take ownership of the work, be able to perform it without big hitches, and so eventually begin to play with it more, modulate it according to the space of the performance, our whims and desires, etc. I was a little pissed at myself for my performance of the work, but then James Yeary reminded me that Gaburo and Co. took 4 years rehearsing the work before touring. Of course at that time this was a new work, new to everyone including director/writer Gaburo. Yet it was a helpful reminder that this a piece that demands virtuosic speaking, and we certainly need a lot more time and luck with the thing before we get there. Only way to do that, of course, is to keep performing at venues such as the opening last night-- so we're happy to have been invited.

Again, many thanks to Will, those who helped with the show, and of course the participants and audience (also participants). Really nice to see everyone (rarely getting to Seattle), including the lovely Robert Mittenthal (his new Wax Works out of Chax: get it!), the aforementioned, Paige Clifton-Steele, Sarah Mangold... reminds me that I need to get to Seattle more often. Somehow make that happen.


Mentioned Chax above and below, with Robert Mittenthal's book coming out, and now after posting this just received the Chax newletter. FYI, and a good time to donate some small dollar amnt in order to see these books come to print. From Chax:

Community and innovation are our central threads, and the language we use to connect the Chax community to all our friends is both of the streets and land and of the highest spire. Our upcoming books, that you will help to print with your contribution, come from diverse voices: Nico Vassilakis, Will Alexander, Eileen Myles, Andrew Levy, Linh Dinh,Jennifer Bartlett, Robert Mittenthal, Maureen Owen, and others that together form a distinct, unreplicated corps of authors whose work needs to be present in our time. At Chax, we fill a need for work that challenges, thrills, and brings together our longtime readers and those new to our community.

To donate via paypal, go to
Or send a check to Chax Press, 411 N 7th Ave Ste 103, Tucson, AZ 85705

Charles Alexander, Executive Director
Chax Press
charles alexander

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