Archive for the ‘mailart’ Category

Fluxus, Name Dropping, and Related Publications – by C. Mehrl Bennett

Fluxus and a few Dada books in my collection. -CMB

Fluxus involves small gestures, perhaps an aura of insignificance or the ‘everyday’, and invites repeat performances of an event score by the original artist or others who will often give credit to the original artist for writing the score. Because of “flux”, the performance will always be a little or a lot different each time it is performed. As the ancient Greek philosopher, Heraclitus of Ephesus, once said, “ You could not step twice into the same rivers; for other waters are ever flowing on to you.”  (As quoted by Litsa Spathi at Facebook’s Fluxlist group.) He also said, “Nothing endures but change.” Thanks to Litsa Spathi for pointing out that this Greek philosopher recognized the Fluxus attitude very early on. (Read more at https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/heraclitus-quotes)

My spouse, John M. Bennett, and I were present in the audience when Dick Higgins did a reading at an art gallery in Cleveland. Our boys were toddlers at the time, and he seemed irritated that we brought them along, though we kept them quiet as we could. He and his wife, Alison Knowles, were original members of the historical art group known as Fluxus. Something Else Press was founded by Dick Higgins in 1963. It published many important texts and artworks by such Fluxus artists as Higgins, Ray Johnson, Alison Knowles, and Allan Kaprow, as well as publishing early Concrete Poetry and books by Bern Porter. Higgins emphasized the importance of inter-media, and created a chart to illustrate that important Fluxus concept.

The term FLUXUS came from the name of a magazine that Almus Salcius and George Maciunas planned to publish. The two friends opened a gallery in New York using the first initials of each of their names: The AG Gallery, in 1961. One of the first artists invited to exhibit there was Yoko Ono. Before the AG Gallery ever opened, Yoko and LaMonte Young had been hosting ‘salons’ at Yoko and Ichiyanagi’s artist loft on Chamber Street (in the lower Manhattan area now called SoHo). Among the writers/artists who gathered to perform at The Chamber Street Series were Dick Higgins, Jackson MacLow, and George Brecht. Maciunas was first introduced to these important Fluxus artists through that venue. Manifestations of Fluxus began simultaneously in Europe, at a time when Nam June Paik, Benjamin Patterson, and Emmett Williams were in Germany and got involved in Maciunas’ Fluxus productions in Cologne and Wiesbaden in the early 60’s. Wolf Vostell and Joseph Beuys are major Fluxus artists from Germany. As a freshman at the Minneapolis College of Art & Design in 1975, I was fortunate to witness Beuys perform one of his famous chalk board lectures in my foundation studies classroom! In 2017 we saw a Wolf Vostell exhibit at the University of Chicago, including one of his cars encased in cement which was displayed in the nearby parking garage. We were good friends with the experimental videographer, Jud Yalkut, an associate of Nam June Paik’s, after he left New York and moved to Dayton, Ohio.

Another important influence on the development of Fluxus was John Cage, first at the New School for Social Research in NYC with his course in ‘new music’ composition. George Brecht attended Cage’s class at The New School, and appreciated Cage’s idea of ambient sound and arranged silences as music. Brecht came up with the written ‘event’ score format for Fluxus performances (per an essay by Hannah Higgins in The Fluxus Reader, edited by Ken Friedman, where she further explains the ‘event’ performance on p. 32.) It’s important to note that Fluxus activities took place primarily outside the realms of official art institutions and utilized mass media directed to international audiences, but also to local communities. This was at a time when small press journals and newspapers of ‘the undergound press’ were forming. Friedman taught at the Experimental College of San Francisco State College in the 60’s. He edited THE FLUXUS READER, first published in 1998, and then released it in a digital edition in 2012 to commemorat the 50th anniversary of Fluxus. He made it available to the average Joe via this FREE PDF download at hdl.handle.net/1959.3/42234 

With his students at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, Cage staged his first musical ‘happening’. Ray Johnson, who went on to be considered as ‘the father of mail art’, was one of his students. Merce Cunningham and Cage incorporated chance and indeterminancy into their performance works, drawing on Oriental philosophies like Zen Buddhism and the I Ching. They also strove to connect ‘art’ and ‘life’ [an important Fluxus concept] by using everyday movements and objects in experimental dance and music and avant-garde performances.   In that new age of television, Cage appeared on the game show “I’ve Got A Secret” in 1960 and performed Water Walk – search “John Cage Water Walk” on YouTube to watch the video.

FLUXUS WEST was under the auspices Don Boyd (Mt. Vernon, OH) until he passed away in 2015 in a nursing home, where we visited him a couple times. (Not that Fluxus is pro-hierarchial.) The mantel of Director of Fluxus West had been passed to Don in 1975 by Ken Friedman, who first staged Fluxus events in the sixties in California (in San Diego and later in San Francisco)  and also in Illinois. (Friedman lives/works as Dean of the Faculty of Design at Swineburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia). The University of Iowa Alternative Traditions in the Contemporary Arts is the official repository of Friedman’s papers and research notes. The Silverman Fluxus Collection at the Museum of Modern Art, Archiv Sohm at Stadtsgalerie Stuttgart, and the Mandeville Department of Special Collections at the University of California also hold extensive archives on Friedman’s work of the 1960s and 1970s.

Around 1970 Dick Higgins brought Something Else Press to Newhall California to join the California Institutes of the Arts and Friedman became general manager of Something Else Press while continuing to direct Fluxus West, though Higgins moved Something Else Press back to the East Coast in 1971. Emmett Williams was Editor in Chief of Something Else Press from the mid-60’s to early 70’s. Around 1970, Fluxus West sent out feelers and established a presence in Cologne Germany. Al Hanson, a major performance artist specializing in ‘happenings’, was active on the Cologne art scene at the time. He was an excellent teacher and he explains a lot about the ‘alternative arts scenes’ and its evolution in this book, AL HANSON: AN INTROSPECTIVE  (see pp. 32 thru 36.)

Dr. Michael Weaver from the University of Exeter in England, at Friedman’s suggestion, launched a Fluxus West Centre in England. Emmett Williams, per Wikipedia, was the European coordinator of Fluxus in the 1960s, and he lived in Berlin but traveled to Paris, France, and associated with the fluxus artist, Robert Filliou. I don’t quite understand where the division between Fluxus West and Fluxus East lies, because Don Boyd was supposedly coordinator for Fluxus West in the USA as of 1975, but I know there is also a Fluxus South in Central and South America. We met Clemente Padín, a visual poet and performance artist, in Montevideo Uruguay, on two different occasions. My spouse and I were invited to present at his Experimental Writing Symposium, and returned a few years later for Mundial Poetico, where Clemente Padín was one of the performers at the Modern Art Museum event and I followed him with my own performance. Both performances involved the written word and the participation of others. Many other international writers and artists participated to these events, also. Josep Calleja of Barcelona in Catalonia, Spain, organized a parade of the alphabet through the streets of Montevideo, where we all wore T-shirts he designed to represent all the letters in the Spanish alphabet.

We were present in the audience when Alison Knowles did a multi-media performance in Miami FL about 10 years after we’d met her husband, Dick Higgins. We happened to be in Miami for the opening of a curated Visual Poetry exhibition. Then, another decade later we experienced her bean bath at North Western University’s Block Museum. It’s wired up to microphones so it amplifies noises made when people walk in the sandbox of dry beans. In 2017 (on my birthday) we traveled to the Carnegie in Pittsburgh to see The Allison Knowles Retrospective. Her bean bath was there, but also a huge book installation and copy machine art and many other interesting projects. Many were conceived around everyday items like shoes or beans. A braiding station was set up with simple instructions for one or two people to braid strands of yarn. That inspired my own braiding event at the 2019 Toronto Fluxfest  with two other performers, which I dedicated to Alison Knowles. Three performers each held a skein of yarn and took turns weaving in and out between each other to create a long braid. The same braid was continued at the annual  AfterMAF event in Roanoke, Virginia, a few weeks later. We’ve been attending both annual events for 10 years now. One of the performers who often came to Fluxfest, Jennifer Wiegel, came to AfterMAF (Roanoke, VA at Art Rat Studios) and performed there in 2019. Many of the performances at AfterMAF are literary, dance, music, poetry, puppet shows, artist performances, and often collaborative events with a neo-Dada absurdist bent to them, and usually a collage station and junk art installation are set up for public creative activity. Some famous Fluxus event pieces and some contemporary event pieces were performed in 2011 at the MAF (Marginal Arts Festival) when Fluxus artist Keith Buchholz (St. Louis, Missouri), and my spouse, John M. Bennett, and our two sons, Ben and John Also, were in attendance. A FluxMazz took place at a local church, where one of the activities was for everyone to bash each other with plastic bags of Wonder Bread, and other Fluxus ritualistic events took place. As part of the MAF parade, one of Philip Corner’s 1962 ‘piano activities’ was performed by a group after they pushed a piano on wheels down the street. Watch the action at this YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xefDbQshqkI John Also and another person were both wielding long handled axes right next to one another – glad no one got hurt! Note: Keith Buchholz has been a careful archivist of present day Fluxfests, of which he was the primary organizer for the first nine years in Chicago Illinois and once in New York City. He was handed the Fluxus West Director mantle by Donald E. Boyd not long before Don passed away in 2015, and was entrusted by the Boyd family to safely archive Don’s fluxus art, ephemera, and papers in his Mt. Vernon, Ohio, studio.

I learned quite a lot about the history of Fluxus when we visited Special Collections at the University of Iowa Library, where a wonderful collection of fluxus ephemera, objects, Fluxkits, and other documents reside. The Fluxus West Collection (1959 – 2003) began with an archive donation from Ken Friedman. The highlight of the visit was viewing editions of “Fluxkits” shown to us by Special Collections librarian Pete Balestrieri. 142 objects from the collection have been digitized and you can look at them online now via https://digital.lib.uiowa.edu/islandora/search?type=dismax&islandora_solr_search_navigation=0&f%5B0%5D=mods_relatedItem_host_titleInfo_title_ms%3AFluxus%5C%20West%5C%20Collection%2C%5C%201959%5C-2003

We met Pete Balestrieri again in Washington DC about five years later at a Smithsonian event held for archive librarians, as we were invited by west coast mailart scholar (mail artist, painter, and former librarian), John Held Jr., to participate in the workshop day by sharing some of our own mailart archives. I had only just donated 40 years of my archives to The Ohio State University Library the summer before, so I only had a few months of recent archives to share, but the experience of organizing those ten plus boxes for OSU Rare Books & Special Collections was foremost in my mind.

So far, I’ve not only mentioned Fluxus, but also neo-Dada and mail art (or correspondence art), and they are interconnected by similar attitudes and some of the same artists, writers or musicians have practiced in all of these fields. Example: Duchamp designed a set of chess piece rubber stamps with the idea of playing a game of chess via mail posts. Those fields are international in scope, and lived side by side with other avant-garde initiatives like visual poetry (important contributors from Latin American mail artists), Inism or Inismo (Gabrielle Bertozzi and Gabriella Giansante of Italy and the late Paul Thaddeus Lambert of Oregon), the Gutai artist group (the first radical post-war artistic group in Japan, example: Shozo Shimamoto from the Osaka area), conceptual art, minimalism, experimental music (John Cage), among others.

An important archive based in Budapest Hungary is called ARTPOOL (begun and maintained by György Galántai and Júlia Klaniczay, and along with artistamp and mailart archives, it includes artist’s books, visual and sound poetryconceptual art, and of course, Fluxus, especially Fluxus East, and installation and performance art.

George Maciunas was from Kuanas, Lithuania. RE: Wikipedia 1st paragraph:

George Maciunas (English: /məˈtʃuːnəs/LithuanianJurgis Mačiūnas; November 8, 1931 – May 9, 1978 d. of pancreatic cancer) was a Lithuanian American artist, born in Kaunas. He was a founding member and the central coordinator of Fluxus, an international community of artists, architects, composers, and designers. Other leading members brought together by this movement included Ay-OJoseph BeuysJonas MekasGeorge BrechtDick HigginsYoko OnoNam June Paik and Wolf Vostell.

Lithuania came out with an official postage stamp of Maciunas in 2016. George Maciunas migrated to the USA and died at the age of 47 from pancreatic cancer in 1978, in Massachusetts. He was educated in art and architecture, and was the original creator of artists’ multiples such as the Fluxkit, often with contributions from others members of Fluxus. He wrote three books about the history of the avant-garde, the first of which concentrated on Fluxus. In 1962 Raoul Hausmann, an original member of Berlin Dada, had suggested that he stop using the term ‘neo-dada’ and instead concentrate on the term ‘Fluxus’. (See p.40 in the book, MR. FLUXUS, by Emmett Williams and Ann Noël, 1997, Thames and Hudson, London). Other little oddities about Maciunas from Emmett William’s A Flexible History of Fluxus Facts & Fictions: He was color blind, he did not smoke or drink and prohibited people from smoking in his presence, he was often in debt due to real estate speculation (he wanted to buy and fix up properties in the area now called SoHo), he was a closeted cross-dresser for most of his life, and he was blind in one eye from an altercation with a “mafioso”.  Shortly before George died, he married Billie Maciunas and as part of the “Flux Wedding” rituals, they exchanged clothes (and thus genders). Billie Maciunas wrote and published The Eve of Fluxus, a fluxmemoire – published in 2010 by Arbiter Press, Orlando and New York. A black and white photo series of the clothing exchange, “Black and White Piece”, February 25, 1978, photographed by Hollis Melton, is included in the book. This was George Maciunas’ final public performance, accompanied by Claudio Monteverdi’s Zefiro torna, which he also requested to be played at his funeral.

Charlotte Moorman, and to some extent Carolee Schneemann, because they would perform in the nude, were at first excluded from historical associations with the Fluxus realm, but the feminist intent behind the focus on the naked body should be credited these days, and they are included more often than excluded in today’s fluxus histories. Nam June Paik collaborated with the cellist, Charlotte Moorman, and Paik was always listed as a fluxus member in most accounts, while Charlotte Moorman was often excluded.  

Charlotte Moorman died in 1991 and Nam June Paik died in 2006.

Dick Higgins died in 1998. Note: He had a fall-out with Maciunas concerning Higgins’ support of the music of Karlheinz Stockhausen. There was a European center of avant-gaarde ideas and performances at the atelier in Cologne, Germany, of Stockhausen’s artist wife, Mary Bauermeister, which attracted the participation of LaMonte Young, Nam June Paik, Emmett Williams, Wolf Vostell, John Cage, and Benjamin Patterson. Nam June Paik was a student of Stockhausen’s and lobbied Maciunas for inclusion of Stockhausen into the Fluxus fold (per FLUXUS EXPERIENCE, Hannah Higgins, University of California Press, 2002). Maciunas felt that Stockhausen’s music still clung to conventional European music traditions (twelve tones of the octave and regularity of beat) and labeled him as “elitist”, but George still made overtures to Bauermeister to contribute her space for Fluxus performances in Cologne. So really, it appears that Fluxus was an international development, and not ultimately beholden to one single individual. Whether Fluxus members found each other in Yoko Ono’s studio, or in Robert Filliou’s sphere of influence in Paris or in Berlin or in Cologne, it would seem that they could recognize the Fluxus attitude when they saw it.

Emmett Williams died in 2007 in Berlin. His book, A Flexible History of Fluxus Facts & Fictions, includes 70 ‘Kunstfibel’ collages, which were digitally remastered by Ann Nöel (a British artist who participated in Fluxus performances, had worked for edition hansjörg mayer and for Something Else Press, and was married to Emmett Williams) was published in 2006 by edition hansjörg mayer, London and Bangkok, and is distributed by Thames and Hudson. In 1991 edition hansjörg mayer had also published his book My Life in Fluxus – and Vice Versa.

Recently deceased: Carolee Schneemann (2019), Geoffrey Hendricks (2018), and Ben Patterson (2016).

Some living first generation fluxus artists as of winter 2019-2020:

Ben Vautier is 84 years old, and lives and works in Nice, France. The artist, Jon Hendricks, has curated important big Fluxus related exhibitions by both Ben Vautier and by Yoko Ono, and was a long time archivist for the Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus collection which ended up with MOMA NYC. Per Hannah Higgin’s book FLUXUS EXPERIENCE (Hannah is the daughter of Dick Higgins and Alison Knowles), “Jon Hendricks was a friend of Maciunas who sometimes collaborated with him, and was a vocal supporter of Fluxus since the mid-1960s..”

Yoko Ono is 86 years old, lives in Manhattan NY, and most recently had a retrospective of her art at MOMA NYC in 2015. Grapefruit, originally published in 1964 by Wunternaum press as a limited edition of 500 in Tokyo, was Yoko’s first publication of what she calls ‘conceptual instructions’. Acorn is a similar collection published nearly fifty years later in 2013 by Thomas Allen and Son Ltd. in the USA and in Canada. Another survivor is fellow NYC artist and musician, La Monte Young (remember that he helped curate salon programs at Yoko’s NYC studio.) Young and Jackson MacLow (d.2004) edited An Anthology of Chance Operations (designed by George Maciunas). The PDF is available for download at http://ubutext.memoryoftheworld.org/AnAnthologyOfChanceOperations.pdf

Alison Knowles, Larry Miller (both of NYC NY), Mieko Shiomi (Japan),  Eric Anderson (Denmark, and important part of Fluxus East), and Owen Smith (Director of the Intermedia MFA program at the University of Maine) are all still active fluxus artists from the first generation, and there must be others who were affiliated with Fluxus in the 60’s and 70’s who may or may not still be active artists, and many I’m just not aware of. Hannah Higgins has mentioned in one of her books that the number of original members was around 30. For instance, I’m not familiar with the Japanese artist, Takao Iijima, better known by his art name Ay-O, or the rainbow man because of his brightly colored graphic paintings, and his name is often mentioned in Fluxus histories online and in books. Wikipedia says he “has been associated with Fluxus since its international beginnings in the 1960s.”

There are critics and art historians who say that Fluxus was a ‘movement’ which died when George Maciunas passed away in 1947. Meantime, the fluxus attitude lives on in younger generations. Most of them hold deep respect and appreciation for their predecessors, and they help keep the old event scores alive by performing them again with due credit given at Fluxfest gatherings, along with new contemporary scores. I’ve often seen Yoko Ono’s Light A Match event performed, and at the 2019 Toronto Fluxfest a painted canvas was laid on the ground of the open doorway to the gallery for people to trod upon as they entered – an early event score by Yoko Ono from a series she wrote that utilized the traditional artist’s stretched canvas. Drip Music by George Brecht (1959 – 1961) is another popular score. Whenever I come across an old disposable violin (three times now!) I save it for a performance of Nam June Paik’s One for Violin Solo (1962).

* https://www.artandeducation.net/announcements/109558/fluxus-reader-free-digital-edition

More online info on Fluxus history here, via The Fluxus West Collection (1959 – 2003): https://thestudio.uiowa.edu/fluxus/history#movement

Understand more about the fluxus attitude and current events at Alan Revich’s blog here: https://www.digitalsalon.com/ where you can also download the Fluxus Performance Workbook, edited by Ken Friedman, Owen Smith, and Lauren Sawchyn as a FREE PDF via http://www.digitalsalon.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/fluxusworkbook.pdf

Alison Knowles’ BRAID piece is on p.70 of the Fluxus Performance Workbook.

George Maciunas Fluxus Manifesto

COW ART IS DEAD

LONG LIVE COW ART

Nonsense is an advocate for I N si G nificant art

I can READ a RED cow

I can RIDE a BLUE cow

As the sun sets the flies on the YELLOW cow stop fly – – –

I N G

c. mehrl bennett 10/30/2019

See the Feb.2020 issue of OTOLITHS, editor Mark Young, at this link to read my Ask A Cow poems… https://the-otolith.blogspot.com/2019/11/c-mehrl-bennett.html

“Ask A Cow” is a phrase I misheard that was part of a recorded telephone message which played while I was on hold, waiting to make a doctor appointment. The actual phrase was “Ask Us How”… I have called back to listen again to the message and it still sounds like “Ask A Cow”.  So the intersection between life and art is serendipitous, sometimes!

Below: The 1982 mailart cow graphic by Guglielmo Achille Cavellini (GAC, 11 September 1914 – 20 November 1990), an infamous Italian mailartist, famous for self-historification, was based on a 1978 (approximately) bull graphic by Carlo Battista The word “INFORMAZIONE” was one of many monikers which Battista had invented for himself. Battista’s original graphic (per a letter by Vittore Baroni to Chuck Welch, dated Feb. 1986) can be identified by deliberately misspelled famous painters’ names, and it was created to include Cavellini’s name among the well-known artists of the time. Another mailartist, Marlon Rockola, created a rubberstamp of the same image but left out Cavellini and “Informazion” and substituted the names of artists in his own mailart network. There have been an exponential number of versions ever since, with various names and different graphic versions, and using different sorts of animals as well.

Image by Guglielmo Achille Cavellini (b. 11 September 1914 / d. 20 November 1990)

Your Mail is a Treasure

Posted: January 21, 2020 in fluxus, mailart, performances, poetry

Your mail art is a treasured document, not an online treasure.

You have entered something virtual or unreal so please listen to the problem:

Understand your instrument first.

Adjust your violin for rate at which three metronomes tick in a modifiable arena

that changes every second.

You need to adjust the layering in order to reduce the value of each note.

Use Middle C as a default aggregation method.

Finally, take a long time to learn the chord life span of your instrument.

1.

You already solved the biggest problem, and with little resistance from me.

Repositioners is a good name. I advise you to reposition chairs faster.

1.25

In the past we played hockey using our son, Zrush, as the diver!

He danced on water in a crisis, then aimed for the 2021 Fish Hockey Olympics, after declaring a full manifesto on his appreciation of the chair.

Zrush and Maya studied for two weeks (4-5 hours in the morning for 5-6 days a week).

1.50

There are many manuals on reality, but we still need a bustling room for chairs.

What happens after three chairs?

2.

Why is an icebreaker useful?

Love Boat did not make a chair sausage in 1990.

In this case, icebreakers are very useful.

3.

Find the app through the app and right click on the app.

Desert your friends and instead stock up on visitors who will pay for each peek.

(We still have some issues: You may need personal resources to tweak the app.)

4.

Important Events:

Aging of the treasured document is based on fighting birds and dogs on the farm, assuming that we can build a robotic archive on our art farm.

Best RegARTs, C. Mehrl Bennett

P.S. Anna Bloom lives with her nose. My nose is half the size of this woman’s. She doesn’t look well if you focus on the nose. Did the order of the chairs process correctly?

Last week I carved a rubber stamp of my rondo design which is great for printing on the back of mail art envelopes, Add & Pass books and etc. Below is my rondo image – it shows a mother & child, but also other images from Mother Nature. It’s meant to be an abstracted, organic, fluid pattern. Today I took the vectorized design, which is just a smoother edged image, and applied it to products sold by a website called Red Bubble, where the image is repeated in a pattern on some of the available products. I earn a small percentage of the money they make selling these products with my design on them. You can view other designs for Red Bubble at that website as well.

Click here for my Red Bubble site, then on the rondo image for more.

Carved rubberstamp image with my hand lettered quote.
I took an acrylic paper marbling workshop and later found all these shapes within one of the sheets I'd made. The background is stamped ink patterns that I made by rolling textured beads on the stamp pad & then in lines onto the paper. I had made the beads years ago but had never used them to make jewelry. - C. Mehrl Bennett
BIRD LINGO artistamp design by C. Mehrl Bennett printed on preperforated stamp sheets from Pedro Pescador, of Black Rock City Post Office, 2019


Little book edition from my marbled critters project. This begins with an 8″x8″ inkjet print of nine scanned images (there are about a dozen total, cut from one sheet of marbled paper). Once I spray with clear acrylic/UV protectant & make strategic cuts, it will fold into a 2.55″ x 2.55″ booklet. If I unfold it at the center it will mail nicely in a first class envelope.

									

 

Recipe for The End of The World

 

 

A head in a cage

Cash on bread

Masses of hair on salami toilet rolls

 

A crying turtle

Ducks in jeans and boots

A stuffed child bobble-head

 

An apple of bone

Hairy eyes

A video camera in a white nightdress

 

Rock phone

Teeth sandals

His nose vegetation

 

Empty magazines

An elephant of gray rock

The sweat of an ashtray collection

 

A galloping horse of water

A hand of mud from the bank

Hands sewn to legs

 

Also, the rest of her cash, birds, and

The ghost in a brown paper bag

They all lay in pieces at the kitchen table

 

Indifferently, she stirs it all

Into a pot of boiling water

With the parts of a lot of old lawyers

 

To season, she adds their last years of childhood,

Sugar, and rose salt

All this leaves a void in her hand bag

 

(Every feather costs you around

Twenty thousand dollars as a

Whale falls onto the cash register)

 

She stared out the window

As if her own head were in a cage

Her shadow flat on the kitchen table…

 

As boiling stew steamed the window

She phoned Manet

On the stomach telephone

 

A dinner invite ensued in a

Paced, cautious, swollen voice

With her arm stretched out over the bay

 

Manet came over

Every step taken flaggingly

Thoughts of bacon forming a cloud

 

Before Manet arrived she felt

The Shadow staring at her

Prone on her bed in a chain-smoking suit

 

While pushing The Shadow into a closet

Her hand passed through him

Bubbles broke open and words came out

 

The wardrobe rose up

Impaled by breathless sound

And meaningless words

 

Upon arrival Manet

Pointed at the hovering wardrobe

And asked “What’s that?”

 

“The sun,” She replied

And so, Manet munched the sun

And threw up the brain.

 

Note: Most of these words are bits of selected text from Texas Fontenella, who outlined them on scraps of pages torn from pulp books and mailed them from Australia to C. Mehrl Bennett in Columbus OH USA on 12/01/2017. On 4/09/2018, CMB selected phrases from that envelope (view some from 2nd section of this collaboration in the image below, scanned in order), and she stitched together this collaborative poem (patching in articles here and there), and gave it a title.

On 4/17/2018 she revised this poem & added the image below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

C. Mehrl Bennett squirrel greyed

Squirrels are like rats in that they forage and build nests

However, squirrels live in trees and rats are under foot

               But who am I to judge?

 

I am just another creature like a squirrel or a rat

We also forage and build out nests, fornicate

               and reproduce, nurture our offspring

 

As a mere creature of this larger universe

These overhead and underfoot beings

               seem AMAZING to me

 

Humans, all you seers and thinkers, doers and polluters

Stop and ask: What effect do we have on our environment?

               Left foot, Left an imprint so “what/where is Right?”

 

C. Mehrl Bennett 2017

Created for Connie Jean’s SQUIRREL MAILART CALL, which ended in 2017

T-shirt image viewJMB & MM purple background

Above photos are a thumbnail back view of shirt and a large image of the front of the shirt! The designs on this black vispo T-shirt are collaborations by Musicmaster and John M. Bennett, done by passing the image/words back and forth via snail mail – one of the collaborative processes often used in MAIL ART.

Zazzle Site Source: Collaborative Vispo T-Shirt

If you wonder what all the fuss is about MAIL ART, let Musicmaster (aka Thomas M. Cassidy of Minneapolis, MN) fill you in during this video interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GOewE81L85w

Sound poetry and asemic writing come together for me whenever this question is posed, “How can an asemic poem be performed?” I think it only takes a simple leap of faith to be able to read an asemic poem like a music score and to improvise with the score using asemic sounds. I will begin with two examples to demonstrate how both bubble up from the same well, though these images appear totally different at first glance. The first is the score for a sound poem that I based on a found asemic score, and the second is a black and white typographical visual poem that evolved from a list of smoothie ingredients. In 2009, I took a photo of parallel linear shadows on a wall and messed with the digital file using image software. When I was playing around with the digital file, a combination of Photoshop Elements commands amplified wider and narrower sections in the linear shadows and a saturation of the colors brought out blue areas in the lines. I recognized a sound poem in the results; Wider darker sections equaled louder sound and narrower sections equaled quieter, softer sounds, and blue in the lines call for the ringing of wind chimes or bells. Two vertical shadow lines were scored for quick event performances where they intersected with parallel lines. The image is divided into 10 1/2 measures: each line is performed simultaneously by one voice for each line, two extras to perform the ‘incidents’, and one person to count steadily to 11 to help the performers keep time with the score. Here is the resulting score:Composition for 9 Voices with 2 Incidental Sections

Scanning printed text while moving the paper during the scan produces asemic text when the original text can’t be read for its original intended meaning. Also using computer software, I did some layering and fine tuning until I felt satisfied with this asemic poem:milk-seeds-March-16-2017-cmb

The element of chance is important in both of these projects. The first project involves natural light and photo technology. A performance of the score involves multiple people making asemic sounds of their own choosing. The second is a form of copy art that involves chance elements of movement and time. There is also a common element of glitch art with the use of computer technology. The results stimulate thinking the same way that reading music scores or text do, but with the use of a broad artistic palette with an inter-media approach: music, literature, poetry, performance art, the plastic arts (including photography and calligraphy), conceptual art, etc.

Asemic writing is a form of visual poetry in that it is a confluence of writing/reading and it often involves the above-mentioned inter-media approaches. There is self-consciously produced asemic writing and there is the serendipity of ‘found’ asemic writing that can be documented in human environments. Human documentation of that which is perceived as asemic writing happens in both urban and in natural environments, such as ant trails on a log, swirling water, the spreading angles of ice on a window, etc. Composition for Nine Voices (the first example in this essay) was ‘found’ in light and shadows on a bathroom wall. The second black and white example involved text that was a recognized language which was then deconstructed in such a way as to make it unreadable as a traditional text.

The artist, writer, or performer might wrinkle a text on paper into a ball and then attempt to read it, or tear it into pieces and reassemble it by chance. Both those techniques have been used to create a kind of “dada” poetry, but a true asemic meaning would result not only in scrambled phrases or sentences but in unrecognizable words. I think the definition of “asemic” must remain fluid, however. Here is a statement about that term written by my spouse, who is also a poet/artist: “Everything is asemic to some degree in that everything is not fully understandable, except perhaps in the multiple, mostly unconscious, regions of the mind. Thus, nothing is truly asemic; everything has meaning,” John M. Bennett, March 2017. John was practicing a form of asemic handwriting in the late 1970’s, which he called “spirit writing”. An example of JMB 1977 spirit writing on graph paper, rubber stamped at the top with “MEAT RECEIVING”, appears in one of Tim Gaze’s first issues of Asemic Magazine (started in 1998). Notice the ambiguity of John’s statement in that “everything is asemic” and “everything has meaning”. There is a kind of “zen attitude” in contradictions, and to be fluid in your thoughts is to be living in the fluxus moment.

German fluxus artist, Brandstifter, in collaboration with the artist, Ann Eaty, asked us to collaborate with them on a project. We recorded our separately improvised vocalization of syllables and sounds found in the scattered letters of alphabet soup pasta. They included the audio in their March 2017 NYC gallery antipodes presentation, paired with two scanned images of the scattered pasta which appears to come out of each of their scanned heads. A year or two previous to Brandstifter’s project, John and I had recorded video of a similarly improvised asemic performance. Improvising, we vocalized asemic and sometimes recognizable words from each other’s scrambling of letters, resulting in the video “Gaez and Vexr”, found at my YouTube site: https://youtu.be/rql_IQvpf5Q

Music can inspire a kind of lyrical singing of nonsense syllables like what is called “scat” in jazz singing. This kind of improvisational thinking is a high art form of asemic language and is one of the inspirations for asemic verbalizing I’ve done in performance venues. That, along with a performance I saw by Lori Anderson decades ago, and YouTube videos or SoundCloud audios of people performing Ursonate, a sound poem by Kurt Schwitters. Jaap Blonk, Christian Bök, and Olchar Lindsann are artists who have successfully undertaken a performance of Ursonate. Schwitters was one of the early Dadaists, though he termed his activities as “MERZ”. Hugo Ball also wrote and performed sound poetry and, along with his partner Emmy Hennings, started Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, Switzerland in 1916 – the very first Dada performance venue. Hugo Ball’s sound poem, KARAWANE, is iconic! The poem image below shows a playful visual presentation where the author uses multiple fonts, some italicized and some bolded, and the straight forward phonetically spelled words are ripe for performance. Ubuweb site has audio files of six of Hugo Ball’s sound poems being performed: http://www.ubu.com/sound/ball.htmlkurt schwitters_karawane

“Zaum” was coined by Russian futurist Velimar Khlebnikov (b.1885 d.1922) and poet/theorist Alexei Kruchonykh for a kind of suprarational, transcendental, phonetic, poetic language of the future. Paul Schmidt, an English translator of that Russian genre coined the term “beyondsense” in relation to Zaum because of the emotions and abstract meanings he felt were more forcefully conveyed without the intervention of common sense. Igor Satanovsky (b.1969, Kiev, Ukraine) is a bilingual Russian-American poet/translator/visual artist who moved to the United States in 1989. On a Facebook page created by Satanovsky to commemorate “Zaum Day” [January 7th, 2017], he posted two interesting Zaum poems. “Sec” by Daniel Harms (Daniil Kharms), a Russian poet who was publishing in the 1920’s, and “KIKAKOKU!” by Paul Scheerbart, a German poet who published this early phonetic poem in 1897 in his book called: I love you! A railroad novel with 66 interludes. New Edition: Pub: Affholderbach & straw man, 1988, p. 278. Listen to this excellent recorded performance of KIKAKOKU! on You Tube by the Uruguayan poet, musician, and performance artist, Juan Angel Italiano in collaboration with Luis Bravo, poet/teacher extraordinaire. https://youtu.be/QgMGYXyRVTw
Italiano has also made many videos and audio recordings of poetry and sound poetry performances by Luis Bravo, John and myself, and others.

Many Pentecostal and other charismatic churches strive to inspire their members to “speak in tongues” when they are baptized, a form of asemic language known as “glossolalia” or “Ecstatic language”, which is also embraced by charismatic movements in Protestant and Catholic churches. There is ancient evidence of this phenomenon in early pagan temples and Ancient Byblos (1100BC). Here is a quote from Dr. John R. Rice’s book, The Charismatic Movement, pp. 136-139: “Some Christians talk in tongues. So do some Mormons, some devil-possessed spiritists, (and) heathen witch doctors in Africa and Asia. Ages ago many heathen religions talked in tongues. It is not of itself necessarily of God.” There are preachers who claim to interpret glossolalia as if it were the word of God; however, I think asemic writers see glossolalia as a mimicking of language, a symbolic façade, and a tool to “free up” the areas of the human brain that process language.

The asemic approach to invented language and/or calligraphic gestural abstraction is an unrestricted, open process. Do not forget that as humans we start out linguistically by voicing baby talk, which is a beautiful naive form of asemic language. A young child’s art has an innocence and free spirit that is often lost later on in middle school when a tightness forms around attempts at an artful representation of images. Preconceptions about the object being drawn and about what encompasses good art or poetry can get in the way of actually ‘seeing’ what is there and rendering or expressing it. The same thing can be said about the academic approach to language and literature, and more currently, the effect of ‘workshop poetry’ on writer’s sensibilities. On a more populous level, many people in the USA have come to accept clichés and greeting card verse as good poetry. I try to guard against using clichés, as they are a tempting and easy solution for expressing a feeling.

We, as artists, must be open to the creation end of literature and poetry and search for meaning without the hindrance of preconceptions. Meaning is found in the act of creation, interaction with nature and the media we chose to convey our thoughts, and in intuitive thought processing. Often the art is in the doing as much as in the artifact that remains. The asemic approach encourages new ways of reading and thinking and reaches across language barriers. Being open to interpretation and change is ‘in the reading’ as well as ‘in the writing’. Any meaning the reader construes is a correct translation. Asemic meaning or non-meaning is not a static thing, but a meaning in flux.

There are public places in urban settings where event notices or advertisements are posted and then torn down with bits that remain in layers upon layers, often resulting in a colorful patina of collaged text. This is “found” asemic writing, but the collage technique is also a very deliberate human initiated process in asemic writing and art. The collage technique began with artists like Hannah Höch and others in the Dada movement that took hold around the end of WWI in Europe. The absurdity of the chaotic realities of damaged human lives that came about as a result of the war was greater than any absurdity an artist or writer could imagine. The new media of photography brought reality and current events into the tool box of artists. The act of creating a composition with typography and photographic images was a way of trying to create order out of chaos. Urban graffiti is a similar response to absurdities of real life. Amid those urban ‘found collages’ of posted leaflets, we also find spray painted graffiti. Graffiti ‘tags’ and stylized calligraphy may appear as asemic to the average onlooker, though it usually has a specific meaning to the artist/author and maybe their immediate circle of peers.

The creation of glyphs, symbols, new words, and poetic sounds might start out in a vacuum and then start to gain meaning within a cultural milieu. Or it might only be known to one living person who dies with that knowledge, perhaps leaving behind an artifact of that language. That artifact will be perceived as asemic by the rest of humanity, though anthropologists may attempt to decipher the meaning, for example, that of ancient Mayan glyphs. It is a very human and natural instinct in all of us to be attracted to glyphs, symbols, new words, interesting typography, and sounds because of a basic need to read or interpret signs in the world around us and to use these as tools to communicate with others.

Citing the NY Ctr for Book Arts website http://centerforbookarts.org/making-sense-of-asemic-writing/, Wikipedia states that “The history of today’s asemic movement stems from two Chinese calligraphers: “Crazy” Zhang Xu, a Tang Dynasty (circa 800 CE) calligrapher who was famous for creating wild illegible calligraphy, and the younger “drunk” monk Huaisu who also excelled at illegible cursive calligraphy”.

A Japanese calligrapher, Shiryu Morita (b.1912) sought “a common universal language that was centered on spontaneous gestural abstraction.” In his work, he wanted to “reconceptualize calligraphy as a contemporary artistic medium while seeking to rise above the barriers between cultures so as to generate a new international art.” Source: http://www3.carleton.ca/resoundingspirit/morita.html

In America in the 1950’s with the rise of modern abstract expressionism and its male icons, we had something akin to asemic writing in the paintings of Jackson Pollock (though he never acknowledged any connection with writing in his work), Cy Twombly Jr., and Brion Gysin (who, aside from his asemic paintings, literally inspired and influenced William Burroughs with his experimentation with the cut-up technique). Today, asemic calligraphic writing appears in art museums globally, including beautiful examples from Islamic artists.

In this digital, post-modern age [computers and fast paced work environments and expanding online social networking], asemic writing is more accepted, recognized, and appreciated on a global scale. It can be created via interdisciplinary genres of writing and other art forms such as the visual arts; including digital art and contemporary forms of drawing, typography, and photography, video, sound, and performance arts. “Intermedia” is a term used for these interdisciplinary arts practices that have developed between separate genres, and was an important concept promoted by Fluxus artist, Dick Higgins. In the past few decades, many art departments in universities have begun to offer degrees in intermedia.

In November 2008, visual poetry finally received some attention from Poetry Magazine, which was founded by Harriet Monroe in Chicago, 1912, and today is one of the leading monthly poetry journals in the English-speaking world. This attention came in the form of an article by Geof Huth which offers comments on a portfolio of twelve works by thirteen visual poets. With his selections, free wheeling asemic poetry is given as much credence as more tradition concrete visual poetry. It is to Huth’s credit that he puts forth both visual poetry as a whole, but also the asemic markings in the portfolio, as poetry. Huth’s article is online at: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/articles/detail/69141
Asemic poetry is harder for the academics to accept than visual poetry with recognizable words, and there is a faction of visual poets who see it as part of the plastic arts rather than a form of visual poetry. Yet, no matter how asemic writing is categorized, there can be no denying that it has garnered attention in the past couple decades. Many examples are published in a 2010 anthology edited by Nico Vassilakis and Crag Hill titled “The Last Vispo”. More about that important anthology, for which I am one of four contributing editors, is online here: http://www.thelastvispo.com/

One of the first people to curate an exhibit of asemic poetry was Tim Gaze, an Australian poet who has written about asemic poetry and was one of the first of our contemporary circle to be interviewed about asemic writing. Jim Leftwich (Roanoke VA) was working around the same time as Gaze in asemics. Michael Jacobson (Minneapolis MN) discovered Tim Gaze’s asemic magazine in 2005, and drew parallels with the novella he was working on, “The Giant’s Fence.” http://www.commonlinejournal.com/2008/12/interview-tim-gaze.html is a link to an interview with Tim Gaze who hosts a website at http://www.asemic.net; also see http://www.asymptotejournal.com/visual/michael-jacobson-on-asemic-writing/ for an interview with Michael Jacobson, who administers a blog and a Facebook page by the same name called “The New Post-Literate”. Luna Bisonte Prods publishes works by experimental writers and poets, and recently published three volumes by Jim Leftwich titled “rascible & kempt: meditations and explorations in and around the poem”. Find descriptions and previews of all three “rascible & kempt” volumes at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/lunabisonteprods These volumes have examples of Jim’s asemic poetry as well as interesting discussions about the current milieu of experimental writers and their work. A few examples of the current terminology he uses for what he sees as today’s experimental writing are quasi-calligraphic drawing, writing-against-itself, and polysemic writing.

The final image I present here is an example of a straight forward back & forth asemic writing I did through snail mail during mail art exchanges with Forrest Richey, aka Ficus strangulensis. The calligraphic practice sheet was set up by me and mailed to Ficus and other mail art contacts. The first line on this card was his and we alternated until the card was full.  asemic writing 003

The entries made from a continuous line are a form of automatic writing, or ‘spirit’ writing. The surrealists, inspired by Freud and the unconscious mind, were doing something similar called surrealist automatism. When I was an MCAD art school student in the early 1970’s, I filled an entire sketchbook with the sort of doodling you see on the last line. I’ve also seen that kind of continuous line patterning piped onto the surface of our wedding cake by an Amish baker and cake decorator, so I know it’s nothing new. But I enjoyed a meditative state of mind as I was doing it. I never titled the drawings, instead, I simply documented my start and stop times. Another artist, Billy Bob Beamer from Roanoke VA, has a similar kind of ‘in the zone’ automatism approach with what he calls his ‘word dust’ pencil drawings. See this web link for more on BBB: http://www.outsiderart.info/beamer.htm

 

C. Mehrl Bennett, Columbus OH, USA
Artist, poet, mail artist, writer, audio experimenter, associate editor of Luna Bisonte Prods
March 2017

Mail Art Calls

Posted: January 29, 2017 in mailart, Mailart Call

 

Go to this source at Lynn Radford’s blog for detailed information about Sinclair Scripta’s 2017 FemailXX project, and pARTicipate PLEASE, ThnX!:

Monday Morning Mail Art Call: FeMail-XX Project

Also, during the month of FEBRUARY, when the nation celebrates Presidents Day, you can call on the current electoral college president to RESIGN by mailing one postcard everyday the post office is open. On one side write RESIGN and address the other side to The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington DC 20500 – Attn: current electoral college president

Mine are all ready to go!

resign-feb-2016-to-white-house

19MailArtMinneDaDa84 2016Tom Cassidy will be sending out documentation to all the mailart pARTicipants, but in the meantime, I can show you the photos I took on Day One of MinneDaDa1984 at Eat My Words Bookstore. Click on an image to view large. Ryosuke Cohen, of the famous 30+ year old BRAIN CELL project, was in attendance at MinneDaDa84!! I even got to sit for a bust version portrait by Ryosuke on Day Two of MinneDada84 at The Black Forrest Inn banquet room. A full body portrait of Ryosuke and a notebook of Tom Cassidy’s collected Brain Cells was displayed during an interview of Ryosuke on Day Three at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts (MCBA). More of my MinneDada84 photos are at: MY FACEBOOK PHOTO ALBUM or at MY FLICKR MINNEDADA84 ALBUM, though these don’t represent but a fraction of all the performance events, films, and PEOPLE of the event.