Archive for the ‘performances’ Category

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)

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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

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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.

Fluxfest Chicago 2016 will be happening around and on Memorial Day weekend at the end of May. What sort of performance scores would one might experience there?  Well, here is a good definition I found today via a Facebook post that referenced this wordpress site:

https://guitai.wordpress.com/

fluxus street theater.jpg

Photo and Maciunas quote below are from the INTRODUCTION post at guitai.wordpress.com

“Art-amusement must be simple, amusing, unpretentious, concerned with insignificances, require no skill or countless rehearsals, have no commodity or institutional value.” George Maciunas, Fluxus Manifesto (1965).

Here is a link to download a publication of fluxus scores that came mostly from participants at the 2014 Chicago Fluxfest – kindly assembled, edited, and produced by Mary Campbell, with some contributions from the art community that gathers annually at this event.  https://archive.org/details/fluxfest2014

For more information on Fluxfest Chicago as it becomes available, look for the Fluxfest Chicago page on Facebook.

We will be attending the mid-August Mpls. Dada event [mentioned by Lynn Radford in this post] via invitation of Tom Cassidy. One of the activities will be making collages which will then hang on a clothesline during the performances at Black Forest Inn.

Trash Bubbles and Life's Little Bits

Time got away from me… it’s already Saturday. So much for Friday Dada posts, huh? LoL! I figured that you wouldn’t hold it against me if you knew that I’d spent all of Friday with the cutest guy in the world…

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This week, we’re taking a look at Dada 100th anniversary celebrations far and wide.

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In Minneapolis, Minnesota, the Minne Dada will take place August 11th thru the 14th. I found this post via Michael Jacobson on facebook. He says this will be, “A Summer Festival, and celebration of 100 years of Dada, here in Minneapolis! Film, poetry, noise, etc. More info coming soon. This party is organized by Tom Cassidy AKA Musicmaster. Here is Tom’s email for more info: tom.cassidy@mmha.com” I sincerely hope that those of you in the Minneapolis area will consider taking part.

Via Jackie Haynes on facebook, I learned of this event in Milan…

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The ANTI-BRAIN ROT mailart exhibit was hosted during Roanoke VA’s 2015 AFTER MAF (After Marginal Arts Festival – an AFTER effect from the now defunct annual Marginal Arts Festival)

These are BUT A FEW of the many submissions recieved from all over the world.
Wilhelm Katastrof (alias Tomislav Butkovic) will be mailing documentation out.
Tomislav is pictured behind the glass in this photo of postcards on french door window panes.
Mailart was also hung from clips on strings in one room, and spread out on tables in both rooms.
W Katastrof at home
During the opening last weekend, Reid Wood performed the “Xeno’s Donut” score, Tomislav played an audio CD collaged from various contributors (edited & mailed by Mark Sonnenfeld), and the cat went in and out.

MORE PHOTOS from AFTER MAF performances & events, plus detailed descriptions (including descriptions for the mailart in this slideshow) can be found in my Flickr album by clicking HERE but ALSO see ALOT of video documentation of performances that took place at ART RAT STUDIO by clicking HERE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

ONE HUNDRED SESSIONS of sitting and smiling for four hours each session were completed by Benjamin K. Bennett on the final day of May 2015! He began documenting these sessions live back on July 28, 2014 — so it’s taken him less than a year to achieve this goal.

Today he’s moving from our home town of Columbus OH to Philadelphia PA and will be spending time on fixing up a row house he bought – putting in a kitchen, etc. He will be closer to a couple of musicians he often has toured with – Jack Wright (saxophone) and Evan Lipson (bass), and he’s also played with Michael Foster, a wonderful performer from NY. Ben is a wonderful improvisational percussionist who often makes his own wind & percussive instruments. He recently replaced a couple drumheads with skin from roadkill animals.

Ben came over for dinner with us a couple days ago and we were visited after dinner by a couple of people who are making short movies about interesting local artists. They wanted to meet us and see where Ben grew up, and they shot some footage during our chat in the livingroom. Most of the footage will end up on the cutting room floor, but we enjoyed their interest in Ben in any case, and I showed off this interesting painting (see below) Ben had done in high school.

I’m hoping Ben won’t mind me posting a few family photos here. We’ll miss having him nearby, but hope to visit him soon!

HERE is a link to Ben’s bandcamp site – so you can listen to samples from various CD’s.

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Ben at left. John Also at right.

Ben-as-a-toddler

Ben as a toddler.

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Ben’s collage featured on the cover of his father’s book.

Ben's-painting