From the Poetry & Revolution Conference, Birbeck College, London, May 2012:
From the Poetry & Revolution Conference, Birbeck College, London, May 2012:
Converted Storefront, Oakland, 2/13/10. I’ve been working on a review of cris cheek’s part: short life housing for Jacket, and given its overlays and cross-fades of performance texts, site-specific writing, audio transcriptions, re-edits and such, thought to investigate the possibilities of a performance-review, as a way of engaging the texts and practices and questions while putting myself in a (perhaps) similarly contingent space of site/time-based writing. About 3 hours before the event at Ariel Goldberg‘s Converted Storefront I recorded an improvised text while walking outside the building, folding in quotes from cheek’s book. I then played the (slightly mangled) recording during the event that night, transcribing as fast as I could onto overhead projector transparencies, followed by a (disordered) reading of the resulting compressed text. Video here, transcript here
Some recent (stoopid) experiments in muscle memory, tracking the everyday banalities of the body & its routines…
(Experiment: Take same series of lefts & rights, but from a different starting point. Upon arrival, proceed to receive therapy.)
Boston : August 2007 : Gallery Soto
(Initial notes – I need to find the materials that survived the performance for transcription purposes)
I gave myself the task of writing for 12 hours straight, foregrounding the writing body in the space of the public gallery. I would only produce writing in the moment, coming out of the conditions in the space & duration of the event (i.e. no writing ‘about’ something else, or working on ‘projects’ or thinking of something & then writing it down, no pausing or breaks, etc). Materials were: notebook, pencils & charcoal, spray paint, tape, post-its, string, tickets, a digital recorder, water, one apple.
Dillon was in a box for all 12 hours (more on this later). Natalie was similarly stationary for the first six hours.
I developed a set of tasks that I was to perform each hour, in part to keep me producing content, and in part to mark time, and in part in response to the unfolding conditions of the space, the audience, my collaborators, my body/experience, etc. These included:
5 minutes every hour writing how it felt to be in my body that moment
s/pacing the gallery, along the walls, while improvising a ‘report’ on the ‘situation’ (composed in detective-noir genre)
producing writing on the walls, one letter at a time, through increasingly difficult (for me) physical acts (i.e., jumping over two chairs & diving at wall with charcoal, improvising next letter in sequence while in mid-air, attempting to transcribe that mark on wall, repeating this till phrases, poems, were ‘completed’ etc.)
writing on wall with white spray paint, then returning later with pencil to outline ‘invisible’ text (as if bringing out the latent ‘writing on the wall’)
five minutes of self-criticism of project, read aloud while writing it
five minutes of ‘personal’ writing, to be taped to wall & then ‘organized’ by means of string, lines, charts, etc.
five minutes responding in writing to what my collaborators were doing.
etc etc etc…
Reflections: All writers ever want is time to do nothing but write. I had 12 hours in which to do nothing but write, and it was one of the more difficult things I’ve ever done. Partially this was because the acts of writing were public, & I was interested in ‘performing’ them, embodying them, & to some degree testing how something so ‘private’ & banal & seemingly ‘easy’ (physically speaking) might function when pushed & challenged in various ways. As I grew hungry & tired my thinking changed, & the ‘content’ became increasingly focused on only the present experience – what was happening in the space, in my body, marking time, following tasks, producing writing without judging it, finding where ‘writing’ fades into drawing, marking, gesture. At times I would simply mark time by writing numbers on the wall as I lay on the floor. Other times I would ‘read’ aloud what I was ‘typing’ into an imaginary keyboard, as if to see if air-typing was the same as ‘actual’ writing. I found that given the freedom to ‘just write’ for 12 hours I worked very hard to come up with tasks & increasingly difficult constraints in order to put pressure upon the writing. I found that those tasks that required the most physical exertion raised the most interesting compositional questions for me. I found myself constantly keeping charts on the wall of “good” and “bad” marks. I liked how the gallery walls filled up with text & marks, & thus became a marker of time, the transcription of the event’s unfolding. Also knowing that none of the text would ‘last’ or be published (ie was ‘fleeting’ – less important than the process/performance?). The self-critical moments, as part of the performance itself, were helpful. They drew out the contradictions & blind-spots as they were unfolding. (For instance, I knew little about where in Boston we were, what the social/economic context of the site might be; there was also the (gendered?) dynamic of my mobility in the space vs DP & N’s immobility, my writing/speaking & their work focused on the [silent, laboring] body, etc.) During the last hour, as folks poured into the gallery from a nearby event, drinking, talking, interrupting, breaking my pencils, tying my legs together, etc., I fell down on my face and opened a cut beneath my eye. At this point all I had left to write with was the apple core, which I rubbed into my cut as I leaped up the wall to write out one letter at a time in blood and apple-meat. Needless to say, this became the most absurd (male) performance art cliche one could imagine – writing with one’s own blood, etc. At the time it seemed completely ‘natural’ – the point was to just keep writing with the materials at hand.
I still believe that content is important – that it’s not ‘enough’ to simply perform the production of writing without also thinking critically about what kinds of content come out of that. And yet the more the writing became pared down to the ‘bare’ act of simply producing ‘more writing’ the more I seemed to focus on questions of what-writing-is than on any other ‘outside’ content. (at least in the moment there were no scare-quotes, implied or otherwise, no simulation, no bringing in something already known [to me] or thought-through. only just writing, for better or worse.)
I’ll write more about this when I can find the materials that survived (we had to whitewash the walls the next morning) & any audio, as well as some comments on the work of my collaborators.
“Everyone gets 15 minutes of shame”
New York, Feb 2008 – AWP off-site event –
I was asked by Dawn Lundy Martin & Stephanie Hopkins to read with others in their room at the Chelsea Hotel. For my 15 minutes I got into bed, removed my pants, set my timer, and improvised a live instant-message conversation in front of the audience, speaking aloud my half of the conversation.
Excerpts from the transcript:
No t’ in bed, yeah
No I would never lie to you
No I would never lie in bed
No iwould never lie in your bed to you
No I would never lie to you in bed
No not hat
No not hat
Well I would do that but all these people are watching me
well that’s more of a philosophical question, isn’t it?
No I think it is “writing”
No it’s true, it’s only happending “now” but isn’t hat
What “we” claim to “want”? that kind of presence?
Yeah theyre hard
Do I have to?
Yeah they are.
No I told you I don’t lie
Yes when I write fiction it’s by definition lies
And yes I am writing fiction now
And yes I ma lying (down) now
(a conceptual self-portrait experiment)
I hired a private investigator to follow & photograph me at various times over a week in Jan 07, & to then send me his ‘report.’
Reflections: due to cost, I was only able to retain his services for a limited time. Which meant he did not do much night-time surveillance, for better or worse… I found the rather banal results to be kinda hilarious – how much of the (this) ‘writer’s life’ is really really boring. Still, an interesting trial run at a poetics of surveillance, where the self & its expressions (self-portraiture, autobiography, confessional poem, etc.) are increasing crafted by other mediated means, often with our consent (i.e. what I feed ‘them’ thru my internet usage, electronic purchases, public movements, etc.) I am I because my little machine knows me…
10:30 am – On scene.
12:05 pm – No activity noted. Delivery truck pulls next to surveillance vehicle parked on (REDACTED) St., blocking view of residence. Surveillance vehicle moves to find alternate location.
12:10 pm – Subject vehicle, green (REDACTED), observed traveling westbound on (REDACTED) St. toward Martin Luther King Jr. Way (MLK). Mobile surveillance initiated. Subject vehicle traveling southbound on MLK toward (REDACTED).
12:15 pm – Visual of subject vehicle lost. Surveillance vehicle delayed at red light.
12:23 pm – Visual of subject vehicle regained in area of Bay Bridge toll booth. Subject vehicle moves quickly across three lanes to FasTrak lane and proceeds onto bridge. Surveillance vehicle blocked by traffic and unable to continue.
12:25 pm – Attempt to locate subject vehicle on Bay Bridge and into San Francisco. Unable to locate subject vehicle and surveillance terminated at (REDACTED) exit from Hwy. 101.
9:15 am – On scene at (REDACTED) St., Oakland, CA. No activity noted. Window coverings are closed and subject vehicle parked in driveway next to residence.
1:00 pm – No activity. No one exits or enters the residence. Subject vehicle remains parked as described. Surveillance terminated.
10:30 am – Begin to depart area enroute to (REDACTED) to determine if subject departed residence on foot prior to initiation of surveillance. Subject observed through rear view mirror hurrying down front stairs and moving quickly to vehicle. Subject is a Caucasian male, mid 30’s, approximately (REDACTED) tall, slim build wearing (REDACTED), brown cap, and maroon work boots. Subject carrying book bag or computer bag. Subject enters vehicle and departs area.
10:35 am – Subject vehicle parks parallel on (REDACTED) St. just north of (REDACTED) Ave., Oakland, CA. Subject exits the vehicle and walks briskly to and enters (REDACTED) on corner of (REDACTED) and (REDACTED).
11:00 am – Investigator enters (REDACTED) to determine actions of subject. Subject observed seated just inside front door and to the left at small table near window, with back to window. Subject, with (REDACTED) in hand, converses briefly with (REDACTED) seated to his right, mid 30’s, approximately (REDACTED) tall with long light brown or dark blonde hair, wearing (REDACTED) with neck scarf, white (REDACTED) and blue jeans. Subject scans interior of (REDACTED) briefly. Subject appears to stare off across (REDACTED) as if in thought. Investigator departs (REDACTED) at 11:10 am.
12:44 pm – Subject observed through window standing and milling about. Photographs of movement obtained
1:52 pm – Subject exits (REDACTED) alone and scans area in all directions. He is observed milling about on the sidewalk at the corner with his hands in pants pocket to protect against chill wind. He pulls small (REDACTED) from his pocket and places in his mouth. He is looking down at sidewalk as he walks, again with hands in pants pockets. No discernable purpose of this activity is noted. Subject removes cell phone from pocket and dials. He holds cell phone to his right ear and mills about. Unable to determine if he is actually talking with anyone or simply listening. He is looking down and walking in an exaggerated manner. Subject places right hand over forehead and rubs the area of his forehead and eyes with a strong squeezing motion. Subject continues to mill about and walks several feet up (REDACTED) Ave. toward rear of (REDACTED). He turns and walks back slowly. His facial expression demonstrates contemplation, as he walks back toward the front of the (REDACTED), apparently taking no notice of the (REDACTED) and traffic as he strides by. Subject reaches the front of the (REDACTED) and lifts his head to look ahead of him. His gaze appears to be fixed in front of him as he walks northbound on (REDACTED) Ave. to the end of the (REDACTED). Subject immediately turns about and walks slowly but with determination back to the front door of (REDACTED) where he enters at 1:57 pm and disappears from view. Photographs of Subject’s activities are obtained.
2:42 pm – Surveillance is terminated