conferences

Me Is Not Me In the Machine: Further Thoughts Part 2 by James belflower

At the 2017 NEMLA conference in Baltimore, Joe Hall, Jeff T. Johnson, and myself discussed overlaps in the socio-political state of Precarity and the aesthetics of online synchronous collaborative writing. The panel was very productive and generated as many questions as it did more complex considerations. In the spirit of keeping the conversation going, I have asked each panelist to provide a brief summary of their paper along with thoughts and questions that are guiding their further thinking about productive interminglings of precarious labor and creative risk in digital environments.

JEFF T. JOHNSON

In the spirit of precarious online collaboration, of me-s that are not me, of becoming me-s and other me-s, of the attempt to subdue the authorial tyrant (authorship is arbitrary power), I offer a couple examples of collaborative folly in which I have taken part.

Terms
Here I use the following (fifth) sense of folly “A popular name for any costly structure considered to have shown folly in the builder” (OED online). The cost here is time, paid as risk (or wager that others will pay in attention). Here, the financial metaphor is contested.

And I proceed to link and even conflate precariousness and provisionality, in the following senses:

Provisional: 1a. Of, belonging to, or of the nature of a temporary provision or arrangement; provided or adopted for the time being; supplying the place of something regular, permanent, or final. Also: accepted or used in default of something better; tentative. (OED online)

Precarious: 2b. Dependent on chance or circumstance; uncertain; liable to fail; exposed to risk, hazardous; insecure, unstable. (OED online)

One folly is a time-costly provisional structure that existed, precariously and holographically, for one month in 2015. Another folly is a conceptual (and precarious digital) architecture and its accompanying theoretical interface.

One is a month-long time-warped improvised online high-school drama. Another is an ostensibly networked interactive open-field digital concrete poem that could become a time-and-space-fluid archive of writing.

All-Time High was a Netprov (internet improv) that ran in July 2015. It had a basic narrative structure worked out in advance, and a team of showrunners and featured players to keep it rolling, but it was built for drop-in public engagement. It was designed to be a collective online hallucination that would vanish after 28 days of infectious fever dream: What if everyone was back in high school, including you?

The Archiverse is a conceptual compositional space, and Letters From the Archiverse is a poem I have been writing in AutoCAD drafting software for the past 9 years, in a version of that conceptual space. For the past 5 years or so, I have been theorizing The Archiverse with digital media scholar Andrew Klobucar. We are currently developing a networked tablet app version of The Archiverse, which will allow an unlimited number of reader/writers to collaborate in real time, but also explore and manipulate an archive of open-field composition at any moment of its composition. The ambition of the project is to reimagine the way language is collaboratively positioned (and manipulated) in time-space. It is also an experiment in decentralizing and distributing—or even atomizing—authorial agency.


So my primary concern is dispersed authorship, collective texts and their resulting collections as digital archives. But I’d like to raise a related line of inquiry, in the context of this panel.

As an adjunct instructor and independent contractor (architectural draftsperson), I wonder: Does the precariat tend to create precarious structures and artworks? Why not seek a sense of stability one does not find in lived experience? Or would that betray one’s experience: another sort of folly? Or: How do we experience precarious digitally mediated forms? And how do we know when we’ve gone digital? Where are we in the digital archive?

Jeff T. Johnson’s writing has recently appeared or is forthcoming in PEN America, Fanzine, Jacket2, Tarpaulin Sky, and elsewhere. With Claire Donato, he collaborated on Special America, a multi-mediated performance intervention about American exceptionalism that stopped being funny when America stopped pretending not to be both self-absorbed and self-destructive. A Netprov feature player, he is co-creator of All-Time High. His open-field concrete digital poem THE ARCHIVERSE is documented at archiverse.net, and is anthologized in Electronic Literature Collection Volume 3. He wrote Trouble Songs: A Musicological Poetics (punctum books, 2017). A chapbook, trunc & frag, is at Our Teeth. He is currently a Visiting Instructor at Pratt Institute.

Me Is Not Me in the Machine: Further Thoughts Part 1 by James belflower

At the 2017 NEMLA conference in Baltimore, Joe Hall, Jeff T. Johnson, and myself discussed overlaps in the socio-political state of Precarity and the aesthetics of online synchronous collaborative writing. The panel was very productive and generated as many questions as it did more complex considerations. In the spirit of keeping the conversation going, I have asked each panelist to provide a brief summary of their paper along with thoughts and questions that are guiding their further thinking about productive interminglings of precarious labor and creative risk in digital environments.

Joe Hall

What’s a utopic horizon for these tools/writing forms?

An exceptional feature of mobile, synchronous writing tools like Slack and Google Docs is how they relentlessly annotate the identity of the composer and time of composition. They automatically save and date drafts—recording document’s extension and revision down to the minute. These tools have a great capacity to index the role of each poet in each stage of production. My paper, in dialogue with Heriberto Yépez’s theories on the imperial maneuvers in regard to time inherent in American modernist poetry, allows us to see something strange about these tools, time, and scale. On one hand, they invite a form of authorship consisting of micro-compositions distributed in a few slender minutes across days, months, and years. They also provided the capacity to grasp texts from anytime or text reflecting on any time in the total archive the internet aspires to be and to feed portions of these texts into their fields. With these tools, the time of composition can be small and scattered; yet it can involve, the appropriation and remix of a massive volume and range of texts.


Joseph Hall is the author of three collections of poetry published by Black Ocean Press and a PhD candidate at SUNY Buffalo where he is completing his dissertation on representations of liquid commons in the literature of the long eighteenth century. 

Echo Locution: Aural - Environment - Body - Poetics Part 3 by James belflower

Maryam Parhizkar, David James Miller, & James Belflower

At the Disembodied Poetics Conference: Writing/Thinking/Being at Naropa University, in October, 2014 David James Miller, Maryam Parhizkar, and myself discussed the influence of music on our critical and creative writing practices in a panel titled "Echo Locution: Aural / Environment / Body / Poetics." The conversation afterward was very rewarding and there were many questions about the various textual and musical sources referenced. To say thanks, and to keep that conversation going, we've posted a brief summary of our talks and a list of resources from our papers. This is the final installment in a three part series. We hope you enjoy!

Echo Locution

David James Miller

How might poetry of attuned attention function—connecting the deliberate act of listening inwardly to the self with listening outwardly to the environment? As in some experimental music, listening is somatic in such poetry, where one becomes open and receptive to dialogue between the self and the larger environment. Pauline Oliveros describes this as: “listening in every possible way to everything possible to hear no matter what you are doing. Such intense listening includes the sounds of daily life, of nature, of one's own thoughts as well as musical sounds.” Her improvised, collective compositions (with Stuart Dempster and Panaiotis) perform such attuned attention deep in an empty, underground military reservoir 70 miles north of Seattle. Likewise, the music by Taku Sugimoto and other so-called ‘Onkyo’ musicians, performing at the Tokyo performance space Off-Site at the turn of the millennium, enact a similar listening experience. Emphasizing a “conscious recognition of the reverberation of sound (oto no hibiki)” (Plourde), their performances are often almost completely-silent, resulting in music of an interactive dynamic, highly attuned to tensions between the material, sonic performance and the unplanned sonic experiences from the immediate environment. This recalls, for me, John Cage's statement that “the sound experience I prefer to all others is the experience of silence... and the silence almost everywhere in the world now is traffic.” This also recalls writing by Leslie Scalapino and John Taggart—poets whose writing connects (the body of) the self and sound, with the body of the many social, political, spiritual, and psychological environments we inhabit.

Echo Locution: Aural - Environment - Body - Poetics Part 2 by James belflower

Maryam Parhizkar, David James Miller, & James Belflower

At the Disembodied Poetics Conference: Writing/Thinking/Being at Naropa University, in October, 2014 David James Miller, Maryam Parhizkar, and myself discussed the influence of music on our critical and creative writing practices in a panel titled "Echo Locution: Aural / Environment / Body / Poetics." The conversation afterward was very rewarding and there were many questions about the various textual and musical sources referenced. To say thanks, and to keep that conversation going, we've posted a brief summary of our talks and a list of resources from our papers. This is the second of three parts. We hope you enjoy!

Reckoning in the Feedback Loop: Some Notes on the Poetics of Transcendence/Transfiguration

Maryam Parhizkar

The feedback loop – in sonic terms, this is the event in which a produced sound, an output, is returned to the input, causing changes or modulations in the new output, but always being a continuous buildup of what came beforehand. I’m going to mangle with this idea a bit, figuring out ways in which the idea of this buildup – this coming back to oneself in a performative act that is of past, present and future at once – might be a way for us to think of how language, whether musical or textual, can be used, and what such a buildup might be working toward.... This project aims to transcend the restraints of the body, or, “the limits of body” to think in resonance Akilah Oliver’s question. In other words: how the loop can be an act of constant reckoning, especially for those who create and perform from the several variations of the margins. To transcend, or rise above, can require a change in the performing body – in other words, a transfiguration. How does a politics of transfiguration operate in this constant return?  The politics of transfiguration is what scholar Paul Gilroy describes in The Black Atlantic as the utopic intersection of politics and aesthetics in a “emergence of  qualitatively new desires, social relations, and modes of association,” working in a lower frequency,  “under the nose of the overseers.” My emphasis, in thinking of transfiguration within this context, is on the literalness of the word: trans/figura, the changing of the figure, or, here, the body. Transfiguration as possibility. To work in counterpoint with Akilah’s question: what are the possibilities of the body when the body becomes language or sound?


Echo Locution: Aural / Environment / Body / Poetics - Part 1 by James belflower

At the Disembodied Poetics Conference: Writing/Thinking/Being at Naropa University, in October, 2014 David James Miller, Maryam Parhizkar, and myself discussed the influence of music on our critical and creative writing practices in a panel titled "Echo Locution: Aural / Environment / Body / Poetics." The conversation afterward was very rewarding and there were many questions about the various textual and musical sources referenced. To say thanks, and to keep that conversation going, we've posted a brief summary of our talks and a list of resources from our papers. This is the first of three parts. We hope you enjoy!

To Know Noise Is to Know Another: Luc Ferrari's Sound Newspaper Far West News

James Belflower

The Italian-born French composer Luc Ferrari was pivotal in the musique concrète scene emerging in Postwar France, which was characterized by the use of found sound, tape manipulations, and extended instrumentation. From one of his first found sound experiments in Danse Organiques (1971-73), which recorded two women making love, to his extended aural travelogue of he and his wife’s tour through the Southwest in the late 1990s, Far West News (1998-99), Ferrari provocatively pulled intimate noise into an historical period where abstract methods of music composition dominated the European and American scenes. In Far West News, Ferrari employs found sound, minimalist editing, and a variety of innovative compositional techniques to create a Sound Newspaper, a haunting "ambiguous realism" composed from recordings of his sightseeing tours, conversations, and ambient audio during their trip. Contrary to the alienation noise typically provokes, Far West News suggests that an encounter with noise is instead a form of communication rich with intimacy. Ferrari's meticulous, sensitive, and hands-on approach to collecting and composing with found sound demonstrates that when we consider noise as deeply relational it allows us to practice non-referential and comparitivist approaches to reality through our senses. Ultimately, noisy encounters encourage us to understand how resonances of all varieties inflect materiality by engendering sonic affinities between human and non-human players in what Ferrari called the "dialectics of the everyday."