In Uncategorized on March 8, 2012 at 12:01 am



The new issue of Corridor8 includes a supplement of new work expanding out from the 1973 anthology Breakthrough Fictioneers, edited by Richard Kostelanetz and published by Something Else press. As a preview of this new issue (designed by the Sheffield based collective dust), VerySmallKitchen offers a gathering of materials:


(1) Roger Luckhurst’s introductory essay “Re-Reading Breakthrough Fictioneers”; (2) extracts of the Richard Kostelanetz introduction to Breakthrough Fictioneers, proposing anthology as polemic; (3) a scan from Corridor8 writer Michael Butterworth of his contribution to New Worlds #199 March 1970 (illustration by Allan Stephanson), which was later published in BF, minus illustration.

Finally, (4) A sample of note cards, collected in RK’s On Innovative Performance, to be read by Rachel Lois Clapham as part of a presentation at the Portable Reading Room (see below) which, says RLC, “explores Kostelanetz as chief chronicler, enthusiast and performance Neanderthal.”

The Corridor8 project appears alongside Michael Butterworth’s interview with Richard Kostelanetz for, which has itself been expanded into a special issue of Derek Horton and Lisa Stansbie’s online magazine.

All of these projects and Richard Kostelanetz’s work more broadly is part of a round table event co-organised by VerySmallKitchen at the Portable Reading Room in Leeds City Art Gallery, March 10th, 2012, 1.00-3.00pm, with David Berridge (VerySmallKitchen), Michael Butterworth (Corridor8), Rachel Lois Clapham (Open Dialogues) and Derek Horton (



(A) Re-Reading Breakthrough Fictioneers



This text can also be read as a PDF here.



(b) Breakthrough Fictioneers



RICHARD KOSTELANETZ: The polemical aim of this anthology is nothing less than a drastic enlargement of our sense of fictional possibility; for the individual selections were made with one elementary criterion in mind – their distance, as hypothetical positions, beyond what we have often read before. No particular deductions about fiction’s future exclusively shaped my choices – not even  this needlessly conservative conclusion I drew four years ago: “ What will, I think, primarily distinguish fiction of the future from the other arts will be an emphasis upon words as such, selected and arranged out of evident taste for language, a measure of human significance, a sense of potential linguistic articulations, and an awareness of the viable traditions of literature.” As the ensuing variety of stylistic alternatives would suggest, however, there exists not one but several possible futures for fiction and language is not necessarily prerequisite. (xiv-xv)



The Wild Pansy Press Portable Reading Room



These innovative works [by Barth, Nabokov, Borges, Barthelme and Crumb, amongst others] suggest  that “fiction” can be most generally defined as a frame filled with a circumscribed world of cohesively self-relating activity. This fictional material may be primarily human, naturalistic, or stylistic, which is to say that fiction may predominantly deal with people, or things, or merely a certain linguistic style and/or formal device; but within fictional art is usually some kind of movement from one point to another. In these respects of diversity and change within an acknowledged frame does fiction particularly differ from poetry, which emphasizes concise, static, generally formalized statement. Fictions tend towards fullness, while poetry is spare, fictions encompass , whilst poetry concentrates; fictions go, while poetry stops.

Fictions thus favour sequential forms (and yet remain distinct from film), as the difference between the material on one page and its successors (and predecessors) often generates the work’s internal event. For instance, a single page of Raymond Federman’s richly inventive  Double or Nothing (1971) might succeed, in isolation, as a graphic picture or “word-image,” where visualizations of various kinds complement the marvelous language; but Federman’s frames in sequence, abetted by sustained preoccupations, begin to weave a fictional action not evident in one alone. More specifically, just as one page can facilely follow from another, so can it drastically contradict its predecessors – an esthetic interface also possible in the similarly edited arts of film and video-tape, but not in live performance, whether on stage or television, or in a lecture. That is, the act of turning pages, which is condusive to sequence, can introduce non-sequential material that is nonetheless artistically related, and in this respect can the interfacial forms of certain fictions resemble this entire anthology. On the other hand, even within a single page can sometimes be compressed a world of artistic activity that is ultimately more fictional than poetic, as well as yet more reduced than Beckett’s Nouvelles textes pour rien (1958), to mention one prior milestone of literary minimalism.

What is new in contemporary art often deals inventively with the essentials of the medium; in fiction’s case, the possibilities of language and narrative form, as well as the potentialities of both a rectangular printed page and the rhythmic process of turning pages; and “freedom” in any art means the uncompromised opportunity to use or fill these basic materials without restraint – without deference, to be more specific, to either literary conventions or worldly realities. Therefore, just as some new fictions depend upon unfamiliar linguistic signs, others eschew language completely in the telling of stories (thereby echoing Tristan Tzara’s declaration for a Dada literature: “ No More Words”). Once the old-fashioned, extraneous, needlessly restrictive criteria for  “fiction” are phased out, it becomes readily clear that many alternatives are possible, which is to say that the fictional medium’s components can still be artistically deployed in innumerable unprecedented ways. The “novel” may be dead, along with other historically mortal forms; but fictionalizing, as a creative impulse, is not.  (xv-xvi)



As freedoms are asserted, so must restrictions be acknowledged. All of the following sections emulate at least one of the components of classic fiction – expository language, characters (which need not be human), evocative artifice, narrative, etc., as even the totally visual contributions reflect typically fictional concerns; and most of them express significances that would surely be familiar to open-minded connoisseurs of imaginative literature. The most obvious formal limitation stems from the practical publishing convention of printed rectangular pages of uniform size, bound in a fixed sequence and limited in color to blacks, whites and occasional greys – limitations which regretfully forced the exclusions of several “fictions” I should otherwise have wanted to include.” (xix)

New York, New York

May 14, 1972



from “Introduction” by Richard Kostelanetz, Breakthrough Fictioneers: An Anthology (Something Else Press, Barton, 1973).



(c)TERMINAL by Michael Butterworth





(d) Three Notecards by Richard Kostelanetz



Extracted from Rachel Lois Clapham “Writing AVANT GARDE PERFORMANCE”, forthcoming at Soanyway. SOURCE: RIchard Kostelanetz On Innovative Performance(s): Three Decades of Recollections on Alternative Theater (McFarland & Company, 1994).





Philip Glass and Robert Wilson
Einstein on the beach (Brooklyn Academy of Music). It was an authentic reproduction, and it was spectacular. What struck me most was how classic it had become and how it would always be a classic. Even though Lucinda Child’s choreography replaces Andy de Groat’s, it is not sufficiently distinguished to change anything. (My recollection is that Andy de Groat depended mostly upon spinning, whereas this is mostly circular movement.) One stylistic mark of the work is repetition, down to Linda Child’s monologue, another is the slow pace. Both these qualities now strike me as terribly dated. Samuel M. Johnson, an elderly black man eight years ago, now seems more infirm than before, but his concluding monologue, delivered from a locomotive cab, struck me as especially brilliant. Some of Wilson’s moves seem even more derivative, such as the pseudo-mysterious rectangle that appears from time to time, reminding me of 2001. The so-called knee plays seem ever more inconsequential. Toward the end Philip’s music appears to get bored with its own style, as each of the instrumentalists takes solos that strike me as terribly UnGlassian. I’d like to see it again, nonetheless. (December 1984).





David Jacobs
 Wah Ching Box Works Assyrian Fair, Baby (Allan D’Arcangelo’s studio).  Though Allan Kaprow invited me, with a scrawled ‘Do come!’ on an announcement, I was surprised to find so few people attending. An innocent middle-aged lady from Life’s Modern Living Department was there, along with her photographer boyfriend. She said that David Bourdon had told her to call him if the performance turned out to be good. Like other examples recently, it reminded me of how snotty and unadventurous the established mixed-means practitioners (and their admirers) are about auditing others who work in this medium, others who are not their intimate friends. Jacobs worked with sculptural materials pumped by air-some belch regularly, others bounce in place, some occasionally let off noises. He skilfully introduced his anthropomorphic figures one at a time. With coherence both visual and aural, I liked what I saw, however thinking that these machines would be more effective in an environmental situation, with the sculptures surrounding the spectators, instead of sitting before us. The noises were too loud for my taste. (December 1, 1967)





Vito Acconci 
Claims (private loft, 93 Grand Street). I’d not seen any of Vito’s new performance pieces-at least not since the deep breathing at N.Y.U a year and one-half ago, which I liked more in contextual retrospect than I did then. Always ‘experimenting with himself’ so to speak, he sets up a situation hazardous, initially to himself, whose results compromise the piece. For example, he had the Post Office forward his mail to the Museum of Modern Art, where he had to go and pick it up. Or he does the same exercise (such as jumping on and off a stool) for a fixed period of time every day. Or he burns the hair off his chest. The term ‘body art’ might be appropriate, because what happens to his body is now the content. ‘Conceptual Art’ is really a more accurate epithet. For Claims Vito sat at the bottom of a stairway with a collection of long poles. Blindfolded, he assigned himself the job of protecting his territory – the bottom of the stairway- from intruders. A close-circuit camera was trained on him, and the results were immediately broadcast ‘live’ on a TV monitor upstairs, as well as recorded on videotape. Thus, his voice could be heard not only through the door leading downstairs but also over the electronic playback system. He did this for a full four hours, constantly mumbling to himself that he had to protect his territory; but nothing else ‘happened’ or changed in the course of the performance. The audience never numbered more than a dozen people, most of whom were (like me) his friends. (September 1971)








Other attempts to think through the legacy and contemporary presence of RK’s work include The Richard Kostelanetz Bookstore at Kunstverein in Amsterdam.

The Corridor8 Breakthrough Fictioneers supplement will include work by Anna Barham, Pavel Büchler, Ben Jeans Houghton, Richard Kostelanetz, Roger Luckhurst, Carol Mavor, Charlotte Morgan, David Osbaldeston and Imogen Stidworthy.





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