Archive for the ‘performances’ Category

MAINTENANT is an annual journal of contemporary Dada art & writing by THREE ROOMS PRESS, June 2020, co-edited by Peter Carlaftes & Kat Georges. The most recent issue was #14 which requested submissions on the theme of UN-SUSTAIN-A-BLE-SH*T (not my words; I would’ve suggesting SAVE OUR MOTHER EARTH, but that hasn’t worked in the past 50 decades so I guess they wanted to up it a notch?). I turned out to be the first to present, along with 13 other writers/poets/artists who were in that issue. We all did a 3 or 4 minute performance/reading based on our published work in issue #14 on Tuesday, Sept. 15th, 7 PM.. a bit over an hour total. YOU CAN SEE SEPT. 15 2020 performance here:

ABOUT MAINTENANT: A Journal of Dada Art & Writing #14 it’s been said:

“A smorgasbord for those who are sick and tired of it.” “Though people expect Dada to be silly, and sometimes it is here, it is also often political and usually poignant…” —Seattle Book Review

“Timely and relevant.” —Tribe LA Magazine

“Excellent examples of collage and montage techniques . . . Interesting visual poems.” —Portland Book Review

“An interesting perspective.” —Manhattan Book Review

“Proof that Dada is not dead.” —Madjan Magazine (Serbia)

Especially if you catch parts of the Dada online festival, you may want to buy a copy of MAINTENANT #14 to read and see the art of the performers in the festival line up, plus much more from those who did not perform their works. You can order direct from the publisher at the above link, bypassing the money grabbing Amazon hub. Keep in mind that this book is over an inch thick (272 pp.) with FULL COLOR interior images and represents an international array of 258 contemporary Dada influenced artists and writers (art, poetry, visual poetry, prose) from 33 countries and 6 continents —so $25 is cheap! That’s my plug, plus I know quite a few of the contributors via the mailart network, flux list, fellow visual poets and experimental writers, etc. I was happy just to get a free copy of the book as a little fish in a big sea of contributors! This book is an obvious labor of Dada love for our Dada family but also for our ailing planet, Earth. Thank you, Peter & Kat.

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

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 

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: 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

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

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).


More online info on Fluxus history here, via The Fluxus West Collection (1959 – 2003):

Understand more about the fluxus attitude and current events at Alan Revich’s blog here: where you can also download the Fluxus Performance Workbook, edited by Ken Friedman, Owen Smith, and Lauren Sawchyn as a FREE PDF via

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

George Maciunas Fluxus Manifesto



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 – – –


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…

“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.


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

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


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).


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

What happens after three chairs?


Why is an icebreaker useful?

Love Boat did not make a chair sausage in 1990.

In this case, icebreakers are very useful.


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.)


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?

Dream de-interpretations are what John M. Bennett calls the poems which he improvises on the spot from short two to four word phrases that other people write down from their nocturnal dreams.

This year (June 2019) at Fluxfest Toronto during events taking place at The Sheldon Rose Gallery, I collected people’s short accounts of nocturnal dreams written on the back of small ticket stubs. Unfortunately, the ticket stubs got left behind in the gallery that night and were not available for the following day’s performance; but Allan Revich, this year’s coordinator of the festival, mailed the ticket stubs to me later. Finally, John and I sat down and recorded his dream de-interpretations based on those ticket stubs. Note that John did not read them before we began recording. Allow 5 minutes to listen to this audio clip at my Sound Cloud site:


The following link is to a video of a JMB performance which included Dream De-interpretations collected and performed in early July 2019 at the AfterMAF (Marginal Arts Fest) in Roanoke VA, an event we’ve been going to annually for about as long as we’ve been going to Fluxfests! (Approx. 10 years). Click at 32:20 minutes into the video for the start of Dream section, [Viewing time is under 10 minutes]:


Allow 10 minutes to listen to the 2020 Dream Deinterpretations audio.

10. Excuse me, I really have to go

09. Excuse me, I really really have to go

08. Excuse me, I really really really have to go

07. Excuse me, I really really really really have to go

06. Excuse me, I really really really really really have to go

05. Excuse me, I really really really really really really have to go

04. Excuse me, I really really really really really really really have to go

03. Excuse me, I really really really really really really really really have to go

02. Excuse me, I really really really really really really really really really have to go

01. Excuse me, I really really really really really really really really really really have to go

P.  go

11/20/2018  C. Mehrl Bennett

C Mehrl Bennett, Diane Keys, and Jonathan Stangroom – photo by Adamandia Kapsilis

Photo by Andrew Oleksiuk – CMB, Keith Buchholz in the womb, Diane Keys

FluxmaZZ score for two priestesses (Diane Keys & C. Mehrl Bennett), deacon (Jonathan Stangroom), and congregation performed May 27, 2018, at Portage Park during Chicago Fluxfest, an annual event organized by Keith Buchholz, who is the baby Being “born again” in the photo above by Andrew Oleksiuk.

Priestesses each wear a penny stole: first one was originally designed/sewn by Mary Campbell and C. Mehrl Bennett made a second stole fashioned after the first. Photo credit: Adamandia Kapsilas. “Holy Bible” and “Liturgical Flux Packet of Prayer” were created/written by Diane Keys.

Objects on table: Red Wine / dixie cups / candy body parts / peanut butter jar labeled “Wyrd of Glob” / Glob spreader / “Wonder” bread – (bread for Glob &  loaves for”AfterGLOB event) / “Holy Bible” / pink materials to swaddle initiates / hand sanitizer labeled “Anti-Fluxus Gel” /  “Flying Cow” suspended from a string/ hand bell

Deacon Duties: Bowler hat is used for collection plate – Deacon passes it around asking for “common cents”                     (a few pennies already in hat) – Deacon gives each member of the congregation a Liturgical Flux Packet of Prayer on which is printed prayer responses “Praise Cheezus Crust” and “Eminem”. M&Ms in packet are referred to as “Fluxpills”. Each pill is to be taken when giving the “Eminem” response [an alternative response to “Amen”]. – When priestesses say the following phrases: “Holy Bible” – “In God we Flux” – “Praise be to Glob” or other ritualistic phrases, the Deacon rings hand bell to signal for prayer responses. If congregation does not respond, the deacon must ask “Can I get an Eminem?”

Three Part Communion Ritual:

“Holy Bible” – Open Bible revealing holes drilled inside and say, “Holy Bible”. Put straw thru biggest hole. Communion begins. Say “The Blood of Crust” as ‘wine’ or other purple liquid is poured through the big hole inside Holy Bible, and caught by communicant holding a cup underneath. Next they are given a candy body part using phrase, “The Body of Crust”. Next they are offered white bread and a knife for peanut butter, as priestesses ask each to “Spread the Wyrd of Glob.”

“Be Born Again” Ritual:

Priestesses swaddle each initiate in a pink cloth for the rebirthing ritual, rocking “the newborn” either on the ground or standing up, whichever they prefer. When initiate comes out of pink cocoon, they are told what a beautiful baby they are and anointed with “anti-fluxus gel” (hand sanitizer) via an “X” on the forehead.  Each born again baby is encouraged to praise each subsequent “born again” baby.

Eternal Circle Ritual:

The two priestesses wearing penny shawls perform this ritual, which is based on an old saying about an action for good luck, “See a penny, Pick it up.” Priestesses each take  pennies from the donation bowler hat and follow each other in a circle, alternately dropping and picking up pennies. Event ends when both stop dropping pennies or no more pennies can be found (which did happen because we performed on grass!).

 AfterGLOB Event: BREAD FIGHT with loaves of Wonder Bread – (Feed leftover bread to chickens/birds/fish. BREAD FIGHT event is by Keith Buchholz, published under the title “Communion” in his book SCORES FOR A CHURCH, and was originally performed as part of FluxmaZZ at a church in Roanoke VA on 3/5/2011.

NOTE: This documentation was previously posted in June 2018 at: thanks to Mobius

Blood of Crust poured through the Holy Bible is caught by communicant with a small paper cup.
Photo by Allen Bukoff- from left is Jonathan Stangroom, Diane Keys, CMB, Andrew Oleksiuk

walking-and-talking-#6Ben Bennett as heard/documented by C. Mehrl Bennett:
CMB notes are written in both first and third person while watching and/or listening to a section of Ben’s YouTube video project, Walking and Talking, which you can also watch and/or listen to by clicking here: Walking and Talking #6:
I shouldn’t worry about worrying about something.
If there is humor then I want it to arise completely naturally out of the process of being sincere.
I’m empty of things to say. I don’t have anything to say. I’m trying to keep my mouth and vocal chords moving in order to form words in the English language.
It’s not necessary to bring about newness, especially not in an un-natural concerted effortful way.
It’s never the same experience over and over even if you do the same thing.
I’m not really trying to be boring either, I’m just trying to continue talking, that’s all.
I have some trust in this process of walking and talking that keeps me doing it, even though in many moments I don’t exactly feel pleasant or…. (continues talking about an idea he heard from someone else, in that art does not have to be socially valuable or entertaining, and he identifies with that, but now is he ‘mimicking’ that idea?)
‘cultural capital’ – then thinks “what do I really mean by that or am I just trying to sound smart?”
adopting certain sentiments or ideas or life styles (attitudes or practices) that would make me appear to be a more valuable person in some way or another… or maybe to make me seem like a better person in some way or another. … with an eye to what the people around me value. the people that I associate the most with in real life have values and lifestyles that differ from the majority of the people in my larger surrounding culture. a smaller, slightly more dissident circle)
you can notice more subtle changes (when you do the same thing over and over again) than if you do something different all the time.
Is there even an authentic me to begin with at all? ‘no’ in regards to ’cause and effect’… ‘I’ am no more than all the causes and circumstances that I’ve interacted with in my life. no new perspectives than the last time he made walking and talking a couple days ago, but he still wants to do this, that boredom is part of his engagement and a pressure (challenge) to work harder despite the absence of external stimuli. I’m not sure if you were excepting boredom, that it would continue to be boredom.
walking increases his physical energy = capacity to focus and to keep talking, not worried about his performance, desires to put effort into this and make it a good experience for me and for you.
being able to intentionally talk with the same inflection (assertively), where I’m almost yelling… then wonders what his ‘natural’ inflection would be? performance means speaking in a certain way on purpose. seeing two people on bicycles made him lose his focus, but feeling generally satisfied with the rate of talking and the subject matter and feeling his physical energy level as being sufficient to keep on like this for awhile so wants to take the opportunity to focus in on what he’s saying, but to be expressing ‘nothing’ clearly. Doesn’t want it to carry meaning that is actually stimulating thought, but to convey ’emptiness’, but doesn’t want to convey any kind of ideas (which would include ’emptiness’)
when I said the word ‘awareness’ i felt a little self-consciousness — relates his exposure to Buddhist and new age spiritual teachers or articles advocating mindfulness — maybe he wants to avoid talking about that sort of thing and keep repeating it and making more of it. there’s plenty of that information out there “You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a guy who’s advocating mindfulness and awareness’
RE: ‘immediately’ let these things go, noticing calmer, less assertiveness inflection vs. motivational, moving forward, working hard, high energy talking. (notices decayed mushroom) Deliberately changing his inflection resulted in feeling more calm and happy. ‘pushing himself’ felt fine too, and one mood is not necessarily better than another mood. Being involved in his mental and emotional state and the way that he’s talking– that makes him feel engaged with what he’s doing. Then acknowledges audience involvement in what he’s doing right now. pushing self to be more revealing of everything that he’s thinking and be highly involved with talking. RE: ‘walking’ part, it’s pretty automatic and facilitates his focus on talking. The pleasant weather outside makes an ideal circumstance to dig in deeply and investigate how his words are formed, how he’s forming sentences, and observing his mind as he’s talking and notice how much he’s premeditating what he’s saying.
Is actual happiness a physical sensation? He decides Not – according to his furrowed brow but then thinks there must be some form of happiness on a higher level that comes from the satisfaction of accomplishing something. Is the distinction between his happiness and consternation or anger even necessary? Wants to try to stop relating those emotions and have a different kind of expression of the way that he’s actually feeling.
– Notices large turtle – shows us on video. “a little treat, short little break away from the work of paying attention to words, to keep us motivated and going.”
He sees his physical, mental, and emotional states as all being related to each other, if not being the same, and wants to describe the sensations he’s feeling in his body. In the middle of his torso, on the right side, in his back, is a feeling of the muscles contracting, only enough to alert him to their presence, and so he adjusted his posture a little more upright … doesn’t know why exactly he did that, except remembering being told to keep posture straight… seems ‘generally like a good thing to do’. He is noticing his feet and the subtle difference of the feeling of the ground through the sole of his shoe, such as gravel. He tries to relax his forehead every time he notices his furrowed brow. – Notices the feeling on his back of his back pack as just a slight discomfort (carrying water this time). Takes ‘neutrality’ as an opportunity to observe things without filtering his thoughts through positive or negative emotions.
– Notices swarms of red bugs (also appeared in the last video) on different posts.
He feels a twinge of sadness at feeling ‘neutrality’, still desiring to feel happier than he feels and thinks of past happiness and the prospect of perhaps never feeling that happy again.
– Notices huge squashed bug. tomato horn worm or luna moth caterpillar but not sure.
Describing his own neutrality as a lack of suffering or pain but also the absence of happiness. Maybe he wasn’t exactly feeling happiness before? He describes happiness as a physiological, emotional joy that makes one smile genuinely and enters one from outside rather than working to generate it oneself, which might negate it in some way. He sees his future = less intense, small doses of that happiness. Circumstances of that past happiness also involved a tremendous amount of pain and suffering, and not sure he can have one without the other, and it seems like if he ever feels ecstasy, that at some point he’s going to have to feel intense pain and suffering. If he tried to regulate into neutrality, less intense on both ends, then does it really matter? He feels sad about this, not neutral. The area around his heart, the bottom of his breast plate, draws his attention towards it = feeling sadness or longing. It’s calling for resolution of some sort but he doesn’t know what to do to achieve more equilibrium. He has faith in process of continuing to live and that the area around his heart will feel better, a fullness, effortless joy coming in from outside. He tries to remember when he’s feeling sad or negative that perhaps he’s storing up emotional capital that he can cash in on, in the future, for positive feelings.
RE: this video, feels novel as opposed to previous videos. He sees a value to what he’s been saying, as it’s a sincere and candid expression of his experience, resulting in some form of connection. He feels vulnerable right now, in that he’s being as honest as he can in a way that’s not referencing outside causation, but simply describing what he feels right now. His neutral emotional state and steady energy level is conducive to expressing his emotions clearly. (long pause) Thinking about what to start saying next. Feeling an attachment towards his way of expression, in retrospect, an emotional tone, judged it in a good way.
– Notices elderberry-like plant with spiky stem, could it be ‘Devils walking stick plant’ which is related to ginseng? It has compound pinnate leaves.
He wonders if the preliminary feeling of getting choked up (crying), affected his voice in any noticeable way? Maybe had some effect. This video’s emotions came out as a result of his controlled focus on talking, and he did not become attached to that emotional state, still feels fine about how the video is going right now. Wants not to direct his way of talking, but let it just happen in a way of ‘discovery’. Continues to walk on the paved trail instead of ‘enchanting’ woods trail so the realm of discovery is more focused on what he’s actually saying rather than letting it spill out into the outside world. Drinks some water. Filters his tap water with a process of reverse osmosis. Seaweed added for minerals and lemon makes it refreshing, and backpack no longer on his back also feels refreshing = ‘gross level’ topics, but still wants to be aware of more subtle experiences happening underneath those ‘gross level’ topics.
– Notices frog in area where he noticed frogs before. Good video shot of it. – Notices jewel weed and squeezes pods, spring loaded with seeds. “Bam!” “…feels like a wriggling salamander. Popped a duzie!” “It exploded with the force of two tons of dynamite!” ..He spoke of his nihilistic brushing past frugmentice(sic?) grass, feeling mild apathy towards the grass.. maybe his feeling of longing caused him to yearn for the physical contact with the frugmentice grass, the same with the jewel weed pod bursting… plant companionship, not quite the same as human companionship “Let me tell ‘ya!”
Is there a danger of blaming his emotions on his circumstances rather than exercising his agency in directing of his emotions towards a more productive mode of being and more positive thoughts? The more broad goal is to not feel suffering in his self. …or maybe to look at that suffering directly and pick it apart to see if he finds directives about what to do. Not to bury them in some sensation like eating ice cream.
– Notices mild smile in person he passed. This gave him a small talk expression “Oh it’s such a nice day out today” though he did not say it aloud to her. “Hello” or “Hi” or “Beautiful day out today” seemed possible but he’s trying to stay faithful to you, the viewer. But he didn’t honestly really feel like exchanging pleasantries. Has thoughts of looking forward to turning around and finishing this video, maybe from having congested sinuses from allergies. Reading, internet, or eating food would distract him from those allergic reactions, plus he could blow his nose in private.
Walking and Talking puts distance between him and distractions like eating, internet, etc. but forces himself to deal with his experiences in a way that is socially acceptable to the viewer, but he can’t use the viewer as a kind of experience to avoid unpleasant feelings or stimulus. He observes and expresses his thoughts as opposed to ‘complaining’ to someone who might respond with sympathetic feedback. He only has his own mind there, not ours, and must use his mind to direct his thoughts in a constructive manner. If he were only thinking to his self instead of talking to the video camera, it might be less productive towards having a good experience.
He sees this video in a constructive light with a possible social utility, though not immediately recognizable as such, though he does value social utility. His own experience isn’t totally separate from the thought of ‘helping people’, because that heightens his own experience. But he is uncomfortable with even thinking about that, as that is a distraction from the actual content and process. He hopes this ideas passes soon. Feeling positive and slightly happy, though body still feels a little heavy, though it doesn’t interfere with his focus on talking.
Memory of previous videos where his train of thought was continuous and flowing and being expressed in rising levels as opposed to the present being expressed differently as a flatter straighter line, [but also the same?]. Level jumping occurring within phrases of sentences, a self-reflexive process that might be contrived but only half-consciously. … just letting it happen. A question of agency is always present.
– Tastes some sour grapes. “What should I say now?” is always the question, but repetition of that phrase is not honest but an automatic expression. Judging himself as self-centered/vain in these expressions but imagines an alternative creative process that involves an external factor or limitation on his own personal emotions that gives a broader and more objective view and draws less attention to the creator himself and so has more social value/integrity.
– Notices a mother yelling in anger at her child, who is crying. Wondering if he should’ve intervened, though fears his ability to skillfully deal with that anger or redirect the anger without getting emotionally involved himself, to the point where he can’t help because of his feelings of pain. He wants her to express her compassion in communicating her desire for her child to be safe, rather than punishing him with her anger. Also he doesn’t know the child’s pattern of behavior and maybe the mother knows best and the child’s behavior warrants such anger. But that anger didn’t seem to be helping the situation as the kid can’t reason out the situation when he’s so upset. He sees it as socially abhorrent for him to intervene, but would like to talk to his friend, Sam, some more about it, as he’s more skilled and experienced at dealing with that sort of thing. Though he may never do interventions in those situations while focusing on his video, as there’s an ethical dilemma with filming such an intervention and making it public due to ‘invasion of privacy’.
– Going back to discomfort with expressing himself vs. objectivity, and so placing certain parameters on creative or visual work. “Confining structures” to reign in human emotions are an expression in its self, and he sees a value in that. The other side is to focus in on emotions without limitations and treat it as an extended process, enabling ‘discovery’ in that four hours of time in the video. Narrowing his talking down to a self-reflexive process is freeing, and is a parameter in its self – using self as a generative engine.
(long pause) …alters the way that he perceives himself at least during those four hours… feels de-personalized. Slight sadness triggered by autumn coming on – describes natural surroundings as past their apex, leaves starting to fall. He has thoughts about death, like the terrifying experience of extreme cold. Becomes mad at self for saying something insightful about life and death. Prefers to be distracted by little turtles on log in stream, until they jump into the water.
He’s trying to avoid ‘content’ (meaning subject matter, not contentment) in his expressed thoughts? …though he then sees his expressions as filler or cheap ploys that let him avoid being fully accountable for what he says, so he can be uninvolved and free to behave in unproductive ways himself, letting the process take care of itself.
– Notices that different sized turtles hang out with others the same size. Judges his expression, “Itty bitty turtles”, as descriptive of a clinging affection, as it is a cute or infantile description. Does that introduce a preference that isn’t really necessary or helpful? Notices bigger adult turtles, and a guilt of not expressing affection equally. Still, he doesn’t want to have a pet turtle, name it, and cry a lot when it dies. Thinks about ending the video to avoid a ‘lackluster’ ending, but still has trust in the process of going to 4 hours, even if his energy level wanes towards the end. Feeling hips, feet, and back, slight pressure in his head, equilibrium drifting towards being more quiet, so will exert more effort and will-power to speak until the end of the video. The process of talking without knowing what to say is something he has to accept. He remembers expressing thoughts which take multiple sentences and could be complex thoughts, even though he thinks he doesn’t know what he’s going to say ahead of time. Wants to join two or three complex thoughts together:
1. Disequilibrium, tiredness, so will exert more effort and will power to speak until the end of the video so he can feel satisfaction at reaching his goal.
2. He remembers expressing thoughts which take multiple sentences and could be complex thoughts, even though he thinks he doesn’t know what he’s going to say ahead of time.
3. He might have been observing himself a little more closely while relaying that thought, and could be the general structure of that train of thought was all in his head as a rough draft when he began to express it in words. Rapidly choosing options and forks in the road and specific verbiage as he’s laying out that thought.
– Notices Japanese knotweed with blue seeds, which he’s never seen before, and then notices blue on the nearby wall. Wondering if someone sprayed herbicide on it, since it’s considered an invasive plant. He will look at it again in the future to see if it’s withered and dead. – Notices turtle with moss on its back, a carp, and a road cone in the water.
Looking for the chance to zone out and let his thoughts run wild, as he feels exhausted by constantly monitoring his thoughts. Maybe he will observe his mental state after the video is over. . Saying that aloud may act as a kind of reminder for when he turns off the video. The viewer may feel a similar type of fatigue with paying attention to his stream of thoughts. Will he continue to think verbally, or more just perceiving, or engage in unproductive rumination? RE: rumination, turning a thought over and over in your head, feeling angry or sad, etc.
Desiring other people not to rely on him for answers but to exercise their own agency and problem solving abilities and so making a mutually engaging experience. So his invitation to ‘thought exercises’ is making him feel a little more engaged with his interaction with the audience. Noticing his furrowed brow as related to bright sun, and does that physical action make him more likely to feel ‘consternation’? He feels humored that ‘furrowed brow’ = ‘consternation’ in his mind. He remembers walking past a person sitting in front of a coffee shop in a sweatshirt that says ‘karma’. He’s not sure if that woman was wearing a sweatshirt that says ‘karma’. (Actually I don’t think he caught her in the video, as I went back & looked.) Said he’s been trying to point the camera upwards and not at the ground, though he hasn’t been focused on the video image in this episode, aside from turtles, frogs, certain plants, or that huge flattened caterpillar, as he’s been very focused on what he’s been saying. He’s thinking you may have been bored with the video aspect, but wanting to pay attention to the audio aspect. Imagines disinterest in the viewer after he suggested other activity while just listening to audio. He felt a pull towards rest and silence and then he put aside negative thoughts about viewer’s disinterest. Feeling anticipation or anxiety being mirrored by audience RE: what will he say next? …and himself mirroring that back, with a blossoming interest in that thought, giving him a nice feeling if only for a few seconds, letting his focus on talking slack a little bit. Wondering if these feelings were fabricated after the fact, with a desire to have something to talk about? Then he has thoughts about ‘Walking and Talking‘ process not having any esthetic qualities associated with art or music or poetry, then it immediately became a positive judgment… as not existing in the world in any other form, at least that he’s aware of.
– Notices a road cone on its side with electric power lines going into the bottom (“Like an electric road cone…that’s just kind of like joking”… video ends)


The above SOUNDCLOUD audio file was recorded by me in November 2017.

The photo is from a 2016 performance at The Black Forest Inn during a Minneapolis Minnesota DADAFEST, which was organized by Thomas M. Cassidy, who named the festival MINNEDADA84 to celebrate the Centennial of the original 1916 DADA performances in Zürich which were organized by Hugo Ball and Emmy Hennings at Cabaret Voltaire. Cassia Harder accompanied me with her violin as I sang brief nonsense songs I had written.

C. Mehrl Bennett

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:

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: 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.
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, 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:

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:
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:

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.” is a link to an interview with Tim Gaze who hosts a website at; also see 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 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:


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

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Remnants from one of my Fluxfest Chicago event scores (Fluxfest Chicago is an annual event organized by Keith Buchholz)- rearranged in various compositions on one of the glass block lights in the floor of the Rotunda Room at the Chicago Cultural Center, Friday May 27, 2016.

The original performance score happened in a gallery on Staten Island NY many years ago. I wore a fabric belt – same material as my shirt – took it off and swirled it into a spiral on the floor – then cut it up with grid-like cross cuts and offered the pieces to the audience. This was during NYC Fluxfest (2011), organized by Keith Buchholz, with additional Staten Island events organized by Mary Campbell and Viv Dey Dada.

At the Chicago Cultural Center event, I wore a long black scarf with gold metallic dots on it around my waste over a black T-shirt. Again, I swirled the material into a spiral then cut it up, but this time I wanted to incorporate the glass block floor light instead of sharing with the audience. I made one arrangement and called it the end of the event, and then a break was called. While everyone else went to an adjoining room, I took the opportunity to rearrange pieces into various compositions, documenting with a photo each time.