verysmallkitchen

Posts Tagged ‘richard kostelanetz’

CORRIDOR8 PREVIEW: RE-READING BREAKTHROUGH FICTIONEERS

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 soanyway.org, 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 (soanyway.org).

 

 

(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).

 

 

A.

 

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).

 

 

B.

 

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)

 

 

C.

 

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.

 

 

 

Advertisements

DEMOTIC ARCHIVES OF ART WRITING: SPECIAL ISSUE ON THE OCCASION OF THE RICHARD KOSTELANETZ BOOKSTORE

In Uncategorized on July 11, 2011 at 11:36 am

 

This issue of the Demotic Archive of Art Writing is a celebratory act of critical reflection and literary piracy alongside The Richard Kostelanetz Bookshop at the Kunstverein, Amsterdam, which offers both exhibition, bookshop, and retrospective of Kostelanetz work as writer, publisher, and editor/ASSEMBLER.

This multiple format of exhibition and bookshop both positions Kostelanetz within contemporary interests in writing as art practice/ reading room as a gallery format, as well as recognising the uncertain economics and distribution of a practice negotiating between  experimental poetics, fiction, essays, music and performance.

Highlighting some of the tensions and possibilities of this, the Press Release for The Richard Kostelanetz Bookshop (a text by Kostelanetz) features RK’s Encyclopedia Britannica entry along with his own comment upon the entry. See that as a PDF here.

 

1.

As a response to the RK bookshop, this blog post is  notes thinking through a series of anthologies edited by Kostelanetz between 1973-1980. Thinking about such books not just for the work that they contain, but because they offer new ways of thinking through the limits, forms, and self-definitions of an “experimental” writing practice, and how we might approach the legacy and historical moment of former generations of such work.

The text below is the introduction to Essaying Essays: Alternative Forms Of Exposition (1975), which served as a basis for an online reading group  curated by VerySmallKitchen in 2009. Given the non-availability of the book itself (except as highly price second hand copies),  the introduction functioned to open a space of possibility, a framework for thinking about our own contemporary essaying and editorial practices. Kostelanetz’s ASSEMBLING publication also offered a model for how the results of our discussions might be collated and distributed further.

This space of possibility is confirmed, if you can get hold of a copy, by a look through the anthology, where a range of image text, scores, notations, critical writings and diagrams, are linked through the theme of essaying. Such immediately apparent formal eclecticism was the case of all of the anthologies – including Breakthrough Fictioneers: An Anthology (1973), Scenarios: Scripts to Perform (1980), and Text -Sound Texts (1980).

As with Essaying Essays, the introductions to such texts seek specificity in the diversity. What keeps something as an essay? How does something remain fiction? What are the boundaries of script and non-script? What is Text-Sound as opposed to,say, Sound-Text? When is it useful to contain experiment in such defined containers?

 

In the introduction to Breakthrough Fictioneers, for example, Kostelanetz puts it as follows:

“As freedoms are asserted, so much restrictions be acknowledged. All of the following selections 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 regrettably forced the exclusion of several “fictions” I should otherwise have wanted to include.” (xix)

Here, then, is a methodology, let us call it EDITORIAL PROCESS AS SITE-SPECIFIC, with “site” a concept functioning across genres and publishing conventions, but also operative in the stuff of the writing itself, BOTH form and content:

“These innovative works 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 tends toward fullness, while poetry is spare, fictions encompass, while poetry concentrates: fictions go, while poetry stops.” (xv-xvi)

 

2. SIX NOTES FOR FURTHER EXPLORATION

 

(a)In 2011 the anthologies are valuable for their mix of texts/ artists which have attained canonical status and those who were part of the small press scene at the time but have now disappeared from our representations of these periods of activity.

I appreciate the anthologies for this expansive notion of a literary/ artistic “scene” at a particular time, constructing histories beyond a set of canonical names or categories – “conceptual” or “Fluxus” – instead bringing the complex abundance of an historical period into the present.

(b)Note the publication history of these texts. The Anthologies offer a useful case study of the (lack of) (abundant) possibilities for distribution that have characterised Kostelanetz career. If Text-Sound Texts attained a major publisher (William Morrow & Company), Scenarios was self-published by K’s own Assembling Press, Breakthrough Fictioneers appeared from Dick Higgins Something Else Press, and Essaying Essays from Out of London Press.

(c)The work explored on VerySmallKitchen often posits and requires a distinct space involving art, fiction, poetry/ poetics and criticism, and a related shifting between authorial positions and functions.

Histories and curatorial/ editorial practices often serve to remove writing from these multiple possibilities, reducing, for example, response to narrow definitions of criticism. K’s anthologies recognise the need for strategic and opportunistic containers, but towards the clarification and operation in that broader field.

 

https://i0.wp.com/www.richardkostelanetz.com/examples/images/moholy.jpg

László Moholy-Nagy’s visual representation of Finnegan’s Wake, from “Vision in Motion” (1947) (reprinted in Essaying Essays)

 

(d)I view Kostelanetz’s monikers in a similar way, less as terms fixing work – “ conceptual art” – than as attempts to introduce a lexicon that both gives form to a particular body of practices, convinces publishers to invest in a project, and also (hopefully/ potentially) is a working term/ artists coinage/ critical formulation to be utilized as generative or abandoned. One of the questions in our reading group was how notions of “essaying essays” could be a useful working trope for practices more involved in performance than page or screen based writings…

Take, for example, “Text-Sound Art”: which, in this formulation, works out this similarity and distinctiveness:

“The art is text-sound, as distinct from text-print and text-seen, which is to say that texts must be sounded and thus heard to be “read,” in contrast to those that must be printed and thus be seen. The art is text-sound, rather than sound-text, to acknowledge the initial presence of a text, which is subject to aural enhancements more typical of music. To be precise, it is by non-melodic auditory structures that language or verbal sounds are poetically charged with meanings or resonances they would not otherwise have. The most appropriate generic term for the initial materials would be “vocables,” which my dictionary defines as “a word regarded as a unit of sounds or letters rather than as a unit of meaning.” As text-sound is an intermedium located between language arts and musical arts, its creators include artists who initially established themselves as “writers,” poets,” “composers,” and “painters”; in their text-sound works, they are, of course, functioning as text-sound artists. Many do word-image  art (or “visual poetry”) as well, out of a commitment to exploring possibilities in literary intermedia.

The term “text-sound” characterizes language whose principal means of coherence is sound, rather than syntax  or semantics – where the sounds made by comprehensible words create their own coherence apart from denotative meanings…” (14)

 

(e)This eclecticism of distribution is a point of connection between RK’s work and contemporary practices. Compare with, say, Dexter Sinister, who, in the recent Bulletins of The Serving Library #1 describe how their A NOTE ON THE TYPE essay/ project/ font has been “recomposed and rechanneled through” various publication and exhibition contexts.

(f)In an essay on Bernadette Corporation, Chris Kraus talks about both their writing of poetry and the “gestural poetry” of BC’s work as a whole. Their recent project The Complete Poem seems to work through acts of dislocation within and between the different communities, many of whom are contained within K’s anthologies.

For example, a text deeply dependent on histories of experimental poetry is exhibited in a gallery context to an audience and in a format that in some way removes it from that history. This suggests a reading of all four Kostelanetz anthologies that considers their considerable accumulated mass as serial acts of undoing…

 

3.

 

If K’s anthologies resonate for their multiple locations of practice and distribution, in other ways I wonder if they are somewhat alien to contemporary practice. I wonder, for example, if the expansiveness of its materials would seem a necessity of any anthologist working today, and if artists and poets across different areas of art writing would appreciate and find generative an 800 page anthology cross-cutting between poetry, fiction, essay, and script…

I suspect not. I spent some time on Saturday looking through the material at x marks the bökship in Bethnal Green, and if a model of/ hope for social formation emerges from such work as a whole it is definitely one of small distinct groups and cliques, low scale social formations, often deliberately finding spaces and communities away from the need for overtly relational/ participatory practices. Connections between art/ performance/ poetry seem only to take place in particular, defined situations.  This, too, into the matter of writing, creates a particular form and style of sentence, paragraph, text-space…

.. the text below is reprinted from The Brooklyn Rail for July-August 2009, charting other forms for legacy/ affinity/ difference…

 

*

Thinking about how the anthologies read as a mix of survey and manifesto (it’s the later that emerges more clearly the older the anthologies get). Thinking through what contemporary equivalents do exist, I link here to the PDF of the introduction for Kenneth Goldsmith and Craig Dworkin’s Against Expression anthology (thinking, too, of the Jerome Rothenberg and Pierre Joris Poems for the Millenium anthologies). If differing in focus, these books (all over 500 pages) nonetheless share with Kostelanetz’s anthologies  a commitment to  SERIOUS BOOK MASS AS WRITER TACTIC.

 

4.

 

So onto the (essaying) essay itself.  The act of piracy here reflects the presence of Essaying Essays in the VerySmallKitchen (see The Piracy Project of AND Publications for another thinking through of this). I have repeatedly talked about this book, showed it, lent it to be photocopied, worked with it. Its ideas, editorial principles, and contents can be traced quite concretely through projects and collaborations on this site.

 

 

The introduction to Essaying Essays is available as a PDF here. If much unfolds from considering these books as gestures, I hope to get to Amsterdam and unfold what follows from the books themselves and the Kunstverein’s act of  putting them back into circulation. The Bookshop is open until 1st October. RK’s own extensive 1999 essay On Anthologies is here.