Michael Peters: The PNA seems to have a unique relationship with history. I am interested in that relationship—how you use it. History is a broad term, I know, but I am thinking of specific examples in your work. Your relationship to the past seems to be important to the overall PNA project as it continues to develop.
There is, for example, 1.) your "Ubu project," if I can call it that for quick reference. Elements of it are featured in this issue of wf/w (See #10 of Gallery 3, "Act V, Ubu Enchained"). It was striking the way the Ubu project seemed to unfold in stages. It was like you turned the Jarry play inside out, and focused on different sensory aspects of it in a step by step process of putting the variance together. Down in Roanoke at the Marginal Arts Festival last year, you were focusing on the sounds of the play, in particular, and I recall there was also a version of it with puppets. It was as if you were coming at the play at a number of angles. Why Jarry? Why the varied approaches—or angles—to it, or with it? I'm interested in your exploratory pursuit of these angles. Then 2.), I am also thinking of the "Secret Activities of Rutgers' Revolutionary Artists Revealed; An activity booklet with games and fun," which was included in "A Sound Exhibition"—an exhibit held at the University at Albany's main library throughout most of 2009. Some of you live in the New Brunswick area, and with this "activity booklet," it seems like you are youthfully calling on the past in a unique way—I mean very specifically, for example, the New Brunswickian Allan Kaprow and the development of "happenings."
I know these are only two examples of this relationship with history in the PNA's activities, but when you couple it with some of your manifestoes/essays like "Anachronism as Dissent" and "The Perfect Action"—both of which are featured in this issue of wf/w—that relationship with the broad term "history" starts to get interesting. I've talked informally to Bradley and Warren about these things last year at the Roanoke Marginal Arts Festival—and in more recent emails with Olchar. I think if you are going to reveal the flesh of the PNA to a wider audience without limiting it to a totalizing definition, this would be a great place to start. Can you continue to elaborate on this?
Bradley Chriss: History... I suppose my assumption is that every action is inevitably historical. After this assumption there are a few questions: How will post-neo treat history as an object or subject but also as a reality? What historical strategies are we willing to use? How will post-neo be presented in a historical way? How will we present our history to culture and what are the expectations for that presentation?
If we look deeper into post neo history into a pre-post-neo history, it seems that there was an inevitability of this phenomenon manifesting as an unspoken, but central interest that merges with the language matrix of the primordial form of post neo. Friends coming across writings from other authors and artists caused an inevitable biological fusion with people like: Crabb Murlock, Hans Richter, Tristan Tzara, Andre Breton, George Maciunas, Hugo Ball, Yoko Ono, Roland Silnachen, Theodor Monnier, Gilda Clymm, Georges Bataille, Hermes Trismegistus etc etc etc etc etc etc... It was during this fusion and the sharing act that followed which cemented the fusion of a huge range of peoples living in vaastly different contexts with our own personally present history/future. This ritual was enormously important, the act of research and sharing, not based on a presentation of fact in an office or classroom, but how one would boast after an imaginary battle or talk shit over beers with a fog of cigarettes and disagreements.
But how can we forget: Erik Satie etc etc etc etc etc...
The founding members, of which there is some dispute to that claim, were all chipping into a situation that was based soundly on friendship and with some sort of ironic sense of brotherhood. The brotherhood concept was never concrete and abandoned quickly, but an overarching phalli-centrism pervaded the group for quite some time, maybe late into 2000. An aggressive examination of this phallus saved the group from implosion. This, however, is a side note. The important thing to note is the concept of friendship, which is typically based on a foundation of mutual interest. In the instance of the forming of post neo, the daily activities that lead eventually to action were based largely on what we all liked to do: drink, smoke, talk and argue, and history just happened to be in the frame of the talk and argue part. An important part of post neo is that the friendship credo has remained a core aspect of how the group permeates, proliferates and merges with other people. It was around 2002-03 that we started receiving mailings from people claiming to be from Montana, prophesying a range of issues. The Montana Mailings as I referred to them ended as abruptly as they began, until 2008 when I began receiving them again. The mailings have always remained anonymous, however we have not been aggressive in locating the source as mystery has been a key of excitement in interacting with what appears to be a tentacle of post neo occurring in the deep of America.
The long standing attachment to Jarry as a figure in and around post-neo is connected to an issue of practice, Anti-tradition, and history's role in permeating these ideas. I like Ubu's spiral belly. I like Ubu acting as an inverting force on power (hence history), I like that Ubu makes everything appear as it is.
I will however leave Jarry for my post neo cousins who have implanted Jarry a little deeper in the brain folds.
To quote our silent cousins in Montana, from " History is Cunt Prophesy ": I'm skinning the shit out of my shemale in order to help you feel, you ball faced dick wad gobbling turkey taint dog gut robber baron cunt! p.s. god is cunt."
I suppose this is one way to approach history.
Olchar Lindsann: One thing that Brad gets at in his reply is the convergence of cross-generational macrohistory, interlocking social microhistories, and structures of embodied myth which constitute a large part of what Post-Neo arises from. On the one hand there is the question of the absence of myth to which the Symbolists, the Surrealists, and the Acéphale groups were responding—many aspects of whose responses can be found in various elements of Post-Neo. On the other there is a simple boredom with ways of living which are not invested in story—in the departure from the banal that it presupposes, in the focus and transfiguring power that it lends to the pasts that it treats, even in the inevitable element of ungrounding that it entails through the hyperbolies, the glosses, the embellishments, the repeated and even at times didactic motifs, the arranged ambiguities that are the stuff of myth, and the conduit particularly for any circle of friends who have not all met each other in person.
Apart from this mythic history, whose historiography reveals itself best through conversation, correspondence, and ephemera, there remains another concept of history at play at the heart of Post-Neo, often indistinguishable from the first. It is most easily distinguishable when applied to those who are dead, and the works that flowed from them; its historiography closer to what is most generally understood as history; that which came before 'US'.
In this connection, many elements of Post-Neo cleave to history for reasons similar to Marx: it grounds activity within the world and its contingencies, thus definitively opening a field of ethical responsibility. It demands that utopia be placed, at least provisionally, within the contingent and thus positions it as something that must be worked toward. This is no Post-Modernist erasure of ethics, drawing the material of history within itself in order to turn its back upon the world. History provides the material to analyze the logics and dynamics of exploitation and all of the infinite resistances to it, and is therefore the basis of any strategy for sustained revolt.
I have treated these ideas at length in Cheating Art History, Anachronism as Dissent, and most extensively (and opaquely) in The Ecstatic Nerve. In brief, my own historiographic interventions into PNA—both into its discourse and into its own historicization through publications, archiving, and storytelling—have been motivated by the observation that the Avant-Garde's histories of itself (and I do not touch here on 'experimental' practice whose concerns are farther from the organizational and micro-social focus which for me defines avant-garde communities) tend to fall into broad generalizations which serve only as vague justifications for continued activity, without the attention to detail or the rigorous critical sensibility required to adjust our own anti-normative practices in genuinely radical ways. The result is an almost constant re-inventing of the wheel, with most practitioners perpetually and self-satisfactorily ceasing to seek after reaching what ought to be merely the first step in the reinvention of living Too many people take the Dadas or the Lettrists at their word when they eschew all predecessors; watch their actions, the ways in which they structure their communities and the roles that texts and artifacts play within those communities, and one begins to understand the discourse which emerges when these modalities intersect with their paradoxical rhetoric.
It is through history that an avant-garde escapes aesthetics; that it escapes becoming art.
The Ubu project is a good example of how all of these various strata of history—micro-social histories and histories of the avant-garde, in their mythic, embodied, and chronicled forms, can intersect in Post-Neo. I begin by observing that if one lives within the avant-garde, one must be familiar with Jarry; stories of him are everywhere, you cannot long escape the stories of Jarry even if you maintain a strict reserve from stories by him. A whirl of myth surrounds him—that is nearly enough. I became aware of him shortly after the inception of PNA in Ohio, and read Ubu Roi striving to discover how this germ had grown into a mythos. No dice. But still intrigued, I made a full-length video of Ubu Roi with my siblings. Over the year of editing that followed, I attempted to make it a film that would drive anyone mad who would watch it five times in a row; in its US premier, the venue turned the sound off and we spent the remaining time loudly heckling it. At its UK premier, a 40-quid pot was to be divided between anyone who could make it through; about 18 people came, 5 made it through, most of them Post-Neos. (In addition to echoes of the plays Paris premier, I have recently heard a similar story of a Fluxus screening from Keith Buchholz).
So as of A.Da. 90 (2006), the Ubu mythos (itself quite heterogeneous) was already surrounded by several bodies of history and myth in Post-Neo culture (so to speak); one native to Symbolism; one to the broader Avant-Garde and the motif of premiers stretching from Hernani to Rite of Spring to Hurlements... and beyond; another specific to Post-Neo itself, intersecting with the latter. This was also a time of proliferation of Post-Neo micro-forms—the Anti-Cabaret, the Meat Poem, the Simultaneous Poem, Post-Neo Puppet plays, etc. Through the Itinerant Mirror group/events, plays by David Beris Edwards and Bradley Chriss were being performed for the first time, as well as a guerrilla production of Tzara's Second Celestial Adventure of Mr. Anti-Pyrine, Edwards and Amy Oliver were writing comedy sketches and producing a radio show.
The history of Post-Neo could be arranged as a history of diaspora; the diaspora of Ohio Post-Neo, while painful, changed what Post-Neo was for everyone involved whilst laying the seeds of the principle British, New Jersey, Washington, and Hawaii Post-Neo groups, as well as PNA nodes within the Eternal Network. In A.Da. 91 the process was repeated as (my visa running up) I returned to the US to work with the New Jersey community. Over the next couple years, British Post-Neo underwent a series of changes (a story David could tell better than me), and it is not surprising that these various threads of activity, no longer happening as such, should find expression in Amy Oliver's translation of Ubu Enchained. An event within the history of Post-Neo, at least as much as in the history of the play; and an event, as well, in the comedic traditions from which Oliver particularly springs and whose presence in Jarry she picks out in her treatment.
In the meantime, I had become involved, through the Marginal Arts Festival, with the avant-garde community in Roanoke VA, which was coalescing around writer/archivist/theorist Jim Leftwich and Ralph Eaton, co-founder of the Church of Sacred Retardation. This activity would soon find a home under the name of Collab Fest. At the same time, the New Jersey group was preparing to mount an International Post-NeoAbsurdist Festival, on literally no budget along the general model of the Neoist Apartment Festivals of the 1980s, of which some of us had heard so many stories. The festival brought together around 15 Post-Neos and associates from the UK, Canada, and around the US, in addition to long-distance collaborations and contributions from many others, plus a PNA solidarity show in Roanoke. Although the Festival was deeply flawed and highlighted many of the divisions and lapses of generosity within the intensely heterogeneous group, while causing a couple of nervous breakdowns for its organizers, it nonetheless provided a direct grounding for relationships that had previously been entirely through texts and images; and the very sense of its partial failure sparked a renewed interest in concerted collaboration between the various geographic cells, as well as with extended Post-Neo family such as the SPART group in Northern Ireland and the Collab Fest group in Roanoke.
Amy's translation of Ubu provided a perfect vehicle; it touched on one of the strongest uniting (shall we say family) myths of both the Post-Neo community (a myth which was shared, in various elements, by all of the regional groups) and of the broader avant-garde, including those groups with which international PNA was just then becoming more intimately familiar. Translated by a Brit and approached from the comedic perspective characteristic of British PNA, its interpretation devised and performed jointly by the NJ and DC groups, for our friends in Roanoke, joined with Post-Neos and other friends from Ohio, Ubu was so saturated in history that it could be said barely to have existed—and there is as near a nod to the importance of 'pataphysics to certain elements of Post-Neo theory as I will venture at present.
Each act was presented in a different format. The formal fracturing of the play—a decision that was not immediate or universally comfortable, and entailed a number of discussions of how this historical artifact ought to be inserted into the moment we were looking forward to—brought about a partial unfurling of the historical matrices at play in its production. Act I was slapstick comedy, loosely improvised upon the text, a public and sideways intervention into a larger event, destined to be swallowed up in it. Act II, a shadow play, was inspired by the notion of reviving and exploring a performative mode that had evidently yielded valuable results to the Symbolists, Expressionists, and Dadas. Act III, in its guise as radio play, was a nod on the one hand to the radio comedy of Oliver herself and of British PNA in general, and on the other hand to fellow Ubu-producer Antonin Artaud's apparently quite different radio-play, To Have Done With the Judgement of God; while the audience-participatory foley-work derived from a Fluxus mentality drawing on the resources of Futurist radio-play. Act IV was definitively a Post-Neo puppet play in all of its trademark crudity and ramshackle ham-fistedness, as that form has developed through the pre-Post-Neo Poorly Made Films through both British and New Jersey PNA, and in several key details also alludes to the first Post-Neo Ubu Roi film, and thence to the place of Jarry near the root of this micro-form. And Act V was an abridged Anti-Cabaret, a kind of Itinerant Mirror with its most venomous fangs temporarily removed.
A third strata of the concept of history is that which you get at through mentioning the Secret Histories of Rutgers' Revolutionary Artists pamphlet. I may let Warren answer this bit in more depth, as he's better qualified and my answer is exponentially longer than I intend. But I will indicate that if the intensely inter- and intra-communal awareness and symbology that is at play in the Ubu production belongs in part—and not accidentally—to an esoteric or occult use of mythic history which is deeply at play in the Decadent/Symbolist community for whom Jarry wrote the play, the Secret Histories highlights the corresponding overtly pedagogical activity which is carried out alongside. Distributed for free to incoming freshmen in the Arts Department of Rutgers University (an uproarious and noisy 'performance' served only to attract their attention and to draw an experiential line in the sand over which the students might choose to initiate themselves, or not), the publication and the educational tour which it advertised was a direct response to a politicized silence in the school's art history (and other) departments regarding the local history of the school and of the city itself, and the role that anti-capitalist creative activity (especially Fluxus) had played in both.
This leads then to an emphasis in Post-Neo not only on internal histories—internal to PNA itself or to the only slightly less bounded milieu of the avant-garde—but on the immediate histories of cities and neighborhoods in which Post-Neo manifests itself. On the one hand this tour was an introduction or a pilgrimage to sites within New Brunswick that have long exercised symbolic power for many of us, and provided material for intensive analysis: the site of the Flux-Mass, of the first Flux-Games, of the Orgies Mysteries Theatre, etc etc, and of course was implicitly the story of the effacement of this local history by the very school which once made this activity possible (in less than entirely intentional ways). On the other, it was a demonstration of gentrification gone unchecked, of a series of neighborhoods and community businesses forced out and ripped up in order to commercialize and 'whiten' a city; an undertaking directed by the Johnson & Johnson Corporation, executed by a corrupt city council, exploited and abetted by the very school they were entering, and facilitated by students potentially just like them, the advance guard of gentrification, content that their 'artistic concerns' expiated them of responsibility for the economic roles they played for the predatory real-estate developers for whom 'young artists' are pawns. The idea being that understanding this local history of racially and economically-motivated displacement, exploitation, and effacement as inseparable from the history of anti-commercial 'art' (if we must call it that) would unlock the notion that creative activity is in its essence ethical, and that removing it from the contingencies of the moment, place, and context of its perpetuation—in a word, from history—is merely one more stratagem on the part of economic power to isolate any potential utopia from the world-as-it-is, and render it another justification for indirectly destroying other people's lives.
Warren Fry: In the summer of 2005, while still living in Columbus Ohio, Brad Chriss and Olchar Lindsann recommended that I read Hans Richter's 'DADA: Art and Anti-Art.' I arrived at the Columbus Metropolitan Library around 10:30 on a Saturday and found it in the stacks. A fine I couldn't afford prevented me from checking it out. I began reading. At 1:31 that afternoon a library attendant brushed passed me. I read on. At 4:33 I read the line "I remember very well how I used to go day after day to the Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum in Berlin to see and converse with a large portrait of a court lady by Velasquez in one of the farthest rooms." I got up and drank from a near by fountain. Minutes later the library closed and I walked outside to find that my bicycle was stolen. Brad Chiss's house was close by, so I walked there. A month later the Bearded Synapse Cabaret transacted.
For Ubu Enchained the decision came early to utilize a different form for each act. This would highlight the erratic and gamesome nature of Jarry's work, allow us tactical elasticity within the Marginal Arts Festival context, and alight on the diversity of creative approaches within the Post-neo community itself. Puppets were a must. Jarry's original was performed with puppets and they'd become a stock-in-trade of New Jersey Post-neo soirees—a form we were intent on keeping alive.
Act V was particularly memorable. It was late on Saturday February 22nd in Brian Counihan's studio on Kirk St. in downtown Roanoke VA. We were exhausted from performing all day, Olchar had just come off of his Prayer for the Poison Child and we'd performed Act II an hour earlier, in short, we were all exhausted. In the midst of the 'backstage' hustle; finding costumes, props, and whatever was left of our wits, we all paused to watch Olchar struggling to open a package of balloons. It was a long pause. Finally we looked at each other and started giggling at ourselves. I think this is the kind of thing Jarry would have wanted.
Secret Histories of Rutger's Revolutionary Artists: REVEALED! was issued to coincide with an orientation for incoming freshman at Mason Gross (which is Rutgers' art school) in late September of 2007. In the three years since Geoff Hendricks had left Rutgers, the administration (with almost no faculty intervention) was actively whitewashing Rutgers' Fluxus history. Students curious about it were told not to ask, books published in earlier years that celebrated the Fluxus/Rutgers relationship were collecting dust in back rooms, and the acting chair of the Visual Arts Department was quoted saying "performance art has no place at Rutgers." Something had to be done.
Olchar Lindsann, Tomislav Butkovic, and myself recruited a handful of students at this orientation to participate in a day long anti-tour of infamous Fluxus locations in New Brunswick. Two miles from Mason Gross on Douglass campus you can find the Round House—a small circular stable and the site of Hermann Nitsch's Action 33. Orgies-Mysteries Theater of 1970. Once our small band arrived there we began to relate the tale: how students participated in the flaying and gutting of a lamb, how the police arrived and were calmed by a lucid, erudite Allan Kaprow who rushed outside to meet them, how a young girl feinted at the sight of all that blood. Then Tomislav produced a wine glass as if out of no where. We filled it with raw bacon, toasted Mr. Nitsch, chanted "Anti! Anti! Anti!" and threw the glass onto the ground. A meat-poem. Secret Histories and the Fluxus anti-tour were an attempt to keep Fluxus, Nitsch and ourselves in play, to act anachronistically, to put Olchar's “Anachronism as Dissent” into action, to pay homage.
A second wave of three questions (responses), and in order of response, the responses:
Michael Peters: 1.) Brad, thanks for putting the shovel into it first! Your idea of history being a force, and the Jarry model as an inversion of power is wildly provocative, especially when it is something like a response to history's prophecy. The inversion you speak of is a blatant form of resistance to that prophecy. And when coupled with ritual!? I mean, to converse with history across the "vaastly differing contexts" is thee exercise of making adjustments, loosening things up, no!? [Ha, I dug that double aa in vaastly, by the way.] There is an implicit method to what you describe. It seems pliant and flexible to the current context, casual too, when it’s of the fogg'd & hops variety. This is provocative. Especially when you use a select history such as Jarry, and then to use it in the way that Olchar describes it via the idea of "micro-forms." All of it adds to a sense of wonderful provocation. So regarding the lines about your "silent cousins" in Montana (and the mailings)? Please explain this familial silence. And how this specific example might give future readers insight into PNA strategies of ritual and resistance (or one of many approaches) toward history as prophecy? Also, how is your sense of ritual part of the resistance? Further context for these questions could be a recollection of looking at some of your symbolist-inspired sketches from your notebook at the Roanoke Marginal Arts Festival. Knowing you, and having had that long conversation, I can't help but wonder about the ideas of ritual & symbolism as you see it related to the PNA's resistance activities.
2.) Warren! Your response was unique to me in that there was literally a time and a place, objectively cataloged—specifically where you were complicated. You made choices from the moment as turning point. It was just a string of events, but the import can be read into them. It's like you can climb back in it, and make it move. Literally history as autobiographical account, by coming out of the library to discover your vehicle stolen. The inference is sheer poetic autobiography in that the PNA becomes a sort of vehicle for you to ride } a means for you to approach history by living in the world. I mean, you took the logical next step, right? You went logically to Chriss's house, and a month later—action, via cabaret to be exact, and of the bearded synaptical variety. Stepping out of the library—that idea is quite beautiful. Please address for me, and even more, for someone new to the practices of the PNA, the aspect of living in the PNA that your response suggested. For you, that living would be in New Brunswick. I recall talking to you on the sidewalk at last year's Roanoke Marginal Arts Festival late into the evening about how at certain stages of the PNA's development, some of you guys were living together & how that reminded me of my own early days playing music, living with my fellow musicians. Life in these contexts can be very cabaret-like, no? I can appreciate this. For those that are new to the PNA, can you say what living in the PNA threshold is about? For Warren Fry, is this not cabaret? How has this changed since the early incarnations of the PNA?
3.) Olchar! Talk to me about the micro-form! You touched upon many wonderful things, including the ritual & homage of the meat poem, but man, “micro-form!” That is the word that has me reeling here. I felt that concept right away about the PNA, although your word for it—“micro-form”—was not there yet. My sense of it was, however. Looking back on it, I think it was activated by seeing elements of your Ubu project coming together. It was in Roanoke again. First, it was the puppet play of Ubu in the afternoon. Then, much later in the evening, it was that you could take another element of the play, the sound for example, and you worked it into a whole new medium—and it was this sound aspect on the heels of the puppet show version of it that did it for me.
[On a somewhat personal note, to explain my excitement for your word micro-form and it's suggestive potency: I fully-realized this initial sense about you guys in relation to my own vaast bin reading in Roanoke. I had filmed my reading. Tomislav, I think, from the PNA had filmed it. And then too, Matt Ames had filmed it. Later, the various angles struck me. For me it was already a breakthrough because I had the audience playing radios with me for the first time. But when I watched the films, the sound was different, of course, on each. It was like I suddenly realized what I was really really doing by the collaboration of sounds with the audience—i.e. the radios being played by the audience. Seeing the films cemented this earlier sense of it, long after I had left Roanoke. The sense of a larger project emerged simultaneously as well as the means to get that sense activated: Some sort of sound-image combination, sure, but by proof of the various vaast film footage, a sensory cubism coming in it from all sides, but with sounds mostly, radios, words—not just a flat cubist canvas; and all the while, the circuitry of it had been potentially n dimensional, but instead was looping back to the event itself from which I was already gone. History can kick you in the. Often, I feel that the work I am doing in the vaast bin, has this element: Potentially endless bins; endless micro-forms; and seeing them as bins of congealings and diffusions in the aperiodic stream of the continuum. The micro-form undoes things, keeps the stream-tides of your moving. & from it, you end up having been, & having bin. To re-state my discovery with words covering the comparative structural pattern, the Vaast Bin = The Eternal Network (that which Olchar speaks of) by rote of the blade duplicator. I made that initial connection in Roanoke, and make it again (here & now), by you, and in parts, because of you, and the flow still has me going— In other words, it’s not static. To put it yet another way, this personal discovery was activated in part by seeing & hearing—& then thinking back on the PNA's material relation to history, and for this reason: You pull layers of the Jarry play's viscera back, exfoliating it, and then, you turn the flakes of it, one aspect of the play, into a wildly unique event—you know what I mean. For example, just sound. It was an experience seeing you guys all huddled around the table making sound effects for the play! The “foley-work.” You re-animated the viscera, so to speak, and you did so anachronistically. You re-activated it, like a score, by imagined sounds, and thus brought it to some new sense of life. The ritual drama of it was and to expose the new angles of it, back on itself. The micro-form, bringing the inside out. And in the flash of that illumination—the process—its having been, or its having bin, or both, so to speak. ]
So to be outside of that big dense bracketed matter of my appreciation, I say again, what a lovely lovely concept, the micro-form is! A word I am thrilled to use, as it gets for me, the sense of your project, and the revelations I too was having by recognizing the pattern in myself. So as a means to talk about the micro-form further, this is (hopefully) the perfect question for you:
How is the micro-form (maybe by example of the PNA's Ubu project or by examples of current work, et cetera), a form of anachronism, and thus too, a form also of dissent?
A quick addendum to the last note for Olchar: I simply forgot about the contents of that package of recent PNA material you sent. Obviously, “micro-forms” could be PNA publishing, as one example, so feel free to elaborate on that aspect. And I also forgot about that staging of the "Ubu Roi" article you sent me with the ornate underlinings. You underlined a swarm of interesting moments in the article on symbolist theater, many of which have already been covered in some manner by your responses. [My question to Brad re: symbolism makes even more sense now.] So regarding that article specifically: Of particular interest to me, you underlined the painted backdrop for the staging (a backdrop with fireplace and the alchemist's crucible), and the fact that it was also suggested to the actor playing Ubu that he imitate Jarry's own way of speaking. When I think too, of Jarry's play "Caesar Antichrist," I am inclined to ask you these additional questions: Is imitation, mirroring, and representation a "way out" for you (that is, according to your variant of the PNA method, and I use "method" in the loose, but disciplined sense)—or is it a way back in? Or is some other kind of "alchemy" going on here. What's smelting in the PNA fireplace?
Olchar Lindsann: The key issue of the microform for me is that it restores to poetic (etc) forms their social (and, in the sense that I have expanded upon, their historical) functions.
In its most radical potential, I see a poetic (etc) form as providing an attentive framework, which can carry on multiple and intersecting conversations at once (once again we find the principle of the Symbol). An epic poem, a eulogy, a novel, an oratorio, etc. is defined according to, and more importantly provides a site of engagement for, several orders of discourse: formal, historical, thematic, political, traditional, and ideally—but rarely—personal or fraternal. In a particular work's relationships to each of these aspects of the tradition/shaping/theme of the form that addresses, a conversion or conversation is being played out. The sonnet is a particularly striking example; from the seventeenth century into this century, to write a sonnet, in itself, meant something—one 'took on' the sonnet, from the Metaphysicals (for whom the sonnet form was a catalyzing social force) through Mallarmé.
This radical potential, however, is more and more difficult to achieve.
If on the one hand we turn to the Great Traditional Forms of Western Culture (lyric, discourse, landscape, symphony, pastoral, history painting, etc), we recognize most of them, in the first place, as deeply contaminated by their complicity with the route of Western Power; in the second place, they have been so widely and variously disseminated, and ingratiated themselves across such a wide swath of social and ideological terrain, that to engage with them no longer indicates a grounded engagement with any particular community or tradition.
If on the other hand we turn to the gradual fracturing, unraveling, and occultation of these forms over the two centuries since the Romantics mounted their reaction to this realization, we find that by means of some intriguing detours we have ended up, broadly speaking, in an equally unenviable situation. Under the influence of Post-Modernism and the movement of literary, philosophical, artistic, musical etc pedagogy into homogenized university frameworks, the kinds of traditions of making under discussion have been reduced to material for asinine and inaccurate pastiche. Their symbolic value has been excised and they have been reduced to the status of 'styles'. For the most part, those who continue to engage in them without irony are no less conditioned by this pedagogical malaise, and their understanding of these forms remains short-sighted, reactionary, and inane. In either case these forms have to a huge degree lost their direct and immediate social value.
In this light, I might in fact relate the proliferation of micro-forms within Post-Neo to the ideas put forth in Anachronism by presenting the phenomenon as a response to a historical inadequacy, while at the same time still a continuation of strategies developed over the course of the past two centuries. For a particularly direct example, I can point to the simultaneous poem, specifically the kind of horizontally-oriented score that has become the classic Post-Neo simul poem score (as opposed to the characteristic scoring methods used by the Be Blank Consort, or the Four Horsemen, etc). These are inspired by the simultaneous poems written and performed by the Zurich Dada group, the classic be The Admiral Looks for a House to Rent by Tzara, Huelsenbeck, and Janco. But whereas I'm aware of only two or three of these in use in the Dada community, it has become a staple Post-Neo micro-form, one of those (like the Meat Poem) which is a staple at any Post-Neo gathering.
This is to say that it has become a kind of ritual, and this is at the heart of how the microform can function as a vital social force. Most of us have performed these poems many times in various combinations, in widely different contexts in situations intense on every level—and reading them, following along and somehow keeping attentive to each others fluxuations and variances in speed and inflection, creates that form of asemic communion or communication that is particular to playing music and other activity. On the one hand, of course, the poems play out for the uninitiated at best as encounters, disorienting or comprehensible depending upon their experience with this kind of thing in general (whatever that is)—at worst, as a mere spectacle. But simultaneously, it is through the little micro-rituals of rehearsing and performing the poems of this micro-form that Post-neos meeting for the first time, meeting after long absences, meeting after the last conversation, find that space—that Anti-space, if you will—from which new routes of understanding can grow.
Because of this, the introduction of a new poem/ritual/social gesture to the micro-form becomes an event, a cause for communal excitement. A healthy micro-form grows. At Roanoke this year, we performed a new simultaneous poem, Edwards' Don't You Fucking Smile, a nearly 20-minute epic with singing, droning, masks, and echoes of other common types of poems (micro-microforms?). And in several weeks Tomislav Butkovic will be debuting a simultaneous poem with parts for electronic noise set-ups (a project with vaast potential as well). As a Post-Neo family, we watch our children grow.
The most iconic Post-Neo microform would probably be the Meat Poem (David has written an excellent (unpublished) essay on this microform.). This was foreseen in a very early (off the top of my head A.Da. 88, that's 2004) drawing by Megan Blafas, published in the Appropriated Press, which is for this very reason also the first Post-Neo Prophesy Poem (I think shortly before the appearance of the first Montana Prophesies), in which a smiley-faced angel smites a piece of meat on an anvil with a hammer. Nearly two years later, at the Bearded Synapse Cabaret, Brad threw a steak down near a copy of Dante, with a whistle in his mouth and a croquet mallet in his hand. John M. Bennett commanded from the audience "Hit that meat!". Brad did, and things went from there. A meat poem featured in every Itinerant Mirror Cabaret, as well as at most of the group's other events like Dada=Fluxus (whoo... another story), the Anti-Lecture, etc., and the form was taken up in New Jersey, after which Brad recently began performing meat poems again for the first time in five years, consciously taking an entirely new approach to what it could be.
Without going into everything like this, here is a partial list of Post-Neo and PNA -appropriated micro-forms, which the attentive observer can identify, especially in the pages of Synapse and in Cabarets:
The List Poem.
The Meat Poem.
The Thrash Poem.
The Sex Murder.
The Simultaneous Poem.
The Vomit Play.
The Splat Poem.
The List Poem again.
The Brute Salon.
The Food Sculpture.
The Profanity Poem.
The Post-Neo Puppet Play.
The Event Score.
The Bruitist Poem.
The Familiar Play.
The Exquisite Corpse.
The Phonetic Poem.
The Piss Poem.
Hrach Rioke Bull Colle.
The List Poem.
And again, briefly, I ought to mention several other elements at play within Post-Neo that operate similarly, on different levels, to micro-forms, specifically the use of talismanic phrases (Anti-, Bar Bar Bar, Vim Vom Vim, Blit Blat, Kuh, etc etc) and physical images or elements (the use of googly-eyes, Cheeze-Its, etc) all of which are connected to various personal, interpersonal, and historical matrices...
AAAnd it's here that I'll pivot into response to your addendum concerning alchemy (increasingly a fascination of mine) and other things, via the observation that the use of micro-forms bears analogy to occult discourses—both of them Symbolic/multivalent/operating on the principle of un-fixed meaning (after all, the bulk of the alchemical process consists of intricate and orchestrated un-fixings), both using a very specific format and the narrow, condensed forms of articulation that it entails in order to open up multiple forms of communication among the necessarily small number of people attentive enough to read the subtle gestures played out therein. (The idea of adapting Caesar Antichrist, for what it's worth, has been aired from more than one quarter of the community.)
The method of alchemy falls into a pattern of disintegration and integration, and Post-Neo's numerous relationships with numerous conceptions of history provide a framework for both of these aspects of whatever process it is that Post-Neo provides the possibility and context for. A way in and a way out, or perhaps a source of fruitful triangulation. One end result, among others, is the opening up of tradition as analogous to the re-approaching of the social and communal impulse: an extension of Post-neo's revitalized engagement with community along another axis.
Bradley Chriss: Michael, First some other things that are important:
There is one now predictable trend that ties all of the issues you spoke of together: A group of artists who came of age at the end of a millennium whose lesson was that everything had finally gotten better, however, all of this had been built upon the blood of exploited and murdered people, billions of people! No big deal, we avoided nuclear annihilation and life under Greenspan seemed to offer an infinite pipe of cash for everyone, oh yeah, by the way the planet is melting.... After Bush and 9/11 it was still the same sentence except for the cash part, and except now everything will not just get better, but unbearably shitty, for lots of people all around the world, including some people who willingly supported the most maniac, gluttonous and violent policies.
I guess a whole bunch of people wanted to feel free to dig their own graves, and the aristocracy handed them the shovel, because they invented a machine to turn the dirt into dough.
Our problem manifests/reflects in two separate acts in two periods of art, at least ones that are close enough to see and think about with ease. The first with the Symbolists and their extreme discomfort with industrialization, the end of the hand, triumph of segmented time and her cousin absolute fact, and the soot covered roosting nest of the banal bourgeoisie. The other occurs with Dada, a refuting of all logic that leads to mechanized warfare and mass death at the hand of the government. I suppose I or we as post-neos have tried to merge these groups (as well as many others... ) so that we may look to the future (as the Dada's did) and look to the past (as the Symbolists did) and hope that we can look two directions at once and curb some of the cultural violence that is going on and will continue like the tide. The tide will love to erode our liberties, freedoms, and life.
If I am unable to blow my brains out, I suppose I have to do something else.
Symbolism and Ritual and Resistance...
Symbolism: First and foremost this concept is a historical construct. Symbolist activity was happening over a broad period of time in a myriad of circumstances that was eventually labeled because of apparent continuities. This is precisely what we had hoped for the format for post-neo, which gives it it's violent presence and lack of identity; a Chimera. A major part of post-neo activity is to resist identity while participating in a group that operates like a Chimera, however the Chimera is a threatening agent, because it is a master of an absence of truth or of absoluteness and hence is constantly re-ordering the order of things, which is also a variant strain/activity of Absurdity. Within this identity is a threat to many viewers whom rely upon a constant in their order of things, and to upend their order feels and is threatening, which is a way Resistance is performed with Symbolism as a back drop.
Dada took the Fool from its prison as a subject and cloaked themselves in it; we have done the same with the Chimera.
Another tool of resistance is that of denial or refusal, which was also a tool of the Symbolists and of Dada, Fluxus, Situationist International, Neoism etc etc etc... To be rooted in history is to be attached to the sentimental (The failure of The Futurists was that they didn't recognize the negative positive of their anti-history march, to kill history made them inevitably attached to history and a need for it as a counter-point, much as post-neo needs a sleeping electorate and a subservient bourgeoisie... how much can a group long for it's own uselessness?) The sentimental is a tremendous power, because it is rooted in Desire and it's children; Longing and Melancholy: one following the other and then again and again imploring and lulling simultaneously! (It is within this relationship of Desire's children that the route of post-neo action most clearly materializes, which is itself an internal threat. While a Chimera is hard to see, it is still a Chimera!)
Within the needs that Longing and Melancholy have so dearly given us, a Utopian state or at least an ecstatic state is almost an inevitable product/projection, this at least allows us to make goals and move towards something in spite of obvious failings of Utopian and ecstatic states. The failure of a criticism of Utopian ideas is that a bunch of artists with no cash pushing Utopia will inevitably be crushed into some compromise, ending our great Utopia, thankfully.
Montana: I don't know shit about these people. We suppose that someone at Ohio State University took our zine home on break and left it somewhere and BLAM!
So even though I don't know these people what does it mean? Well, the idea of idea's is that they spread like a virus and if a group can put some ideas into play, even if they lay dormant for fucking ever they still find a way out and then back in, like the word fuck, or shit. (TAKE THAT!!! you Norman shit fucks!!!!) The Renaissance being one good example, the revival of pre-Socratic thinking in Continental philosophy another, the transfusion of Bacchus into Christ another and so on and so on... Resistance doesn't necessarily have to be organized, just prophesied. Prophecy is a fantastic tool, it ties up the presence of present and forces an eye toward something, whether that thing is good or bad feeling. It also contains all of the principles of history and the sentimental, a strong desire for what you want and even though you can't have it you will put it in play in the external memories in hopes that even after you die that your ideas will be floating like a vapor. Ubu Roi is a great example of resistance and prophecy, who would've thought that some obese tyrant with a spiral on his belly would be such a fitting symbol for power in the 20th century and the rise of capitalism and all of it's nastiness! Ubu teaches us that those in power are the best at resisting and laying the ground for their own revival. Our job as post-neos has been to jam that up! We can't kill an idea, but we can shun it I suppose! So as aristocrats plant their ideas in the external memory system, we skulk like a demon made from slippages haunting their detached memory.
David Beris Edwards: Hello Michael.
I've found this diagram to be rather useful on a number of occasions.
I lost the piece of paper that I'd written all the bits down on, but
the most important one is 39a (obviously) and is something to do with
the noise you get when you tread on a packet of salt and vinegar
Warren Fry:Going to Brad’s house after the bicycle theft was the first act of post-neo visitation I participated in. I mention Richter because after reading him I understood that in Dada all the talking, experimenting, planning, doing and having fun were the result of their working together very closely, in their very homes and hang-outs, on a nightly basis. This helped the Dadas further interpenetrate into each others' lives. The aesthetic come ethical strategies (some worked and some didn’t) they used were meant to preserve this social terrain, a terrain mediated by purposeful and vital visitations and cohabitations. That same sort of active fun they were having though, was naturally occurring in pre-post-neo friendships and well before I moved in with Brad and Olchar during our undergraduate studies, before post-neo was around. As Brad, David, and Olchar have been addressing, post-neo rituals, traditions, inside jokes, storytelling, laughter and arguments, which take place by and large within our homes, are techniques for maintaining the kinds of friendships that produce new knowledge—the kind of friendships that philistines will be quick to tell you should end after a stint in academia, or worse, can’t even exist without one.
That being said the pursuit of graduate degrees led some of us away from Columbus and resulted in a post-neo diaspora, which luckily found us sympathetic friends in England, Washington D.C., and New Brunswick, NJ, (where Olchar, Tomislav Butkovic, and I live and work now) and added these towns to the list of post-neo cells which already included Columbus OH and, without our even being aware of it, Montana.
Post-neo is as homey as it is worldly. Each post-neo cell acts in a very different way, but all seem to be crucibles in which shared misunderstandings are communally verified, validated, and enjoyed, in a sense re-worked into works (micro-forms are a perfect example). In a way this is a stand against a world that says misunderstanding must be avoided—on the contrary, misunderstanding must be coveted and loved. This act of misunderstanding together becomes ritualized in the post-neo day-to-day experience of being with one another.
There is no post-neo lifestyle, only post-neo life. But, some common activities reappear and can be traced. The New Jersey post-neo cell is kind of like the Adam’s Family meets The Young Ones… but with jobs. Jobs. One thing common to all post-neo cells is that we work jobs, often so called ‘shitty’ jobs. The avoidance of real employment, which to hippies, artists, and hipsters is a privilege, and to anarchists a duty, is something abhorrent to us. One must work. One must work in order to see what one can do after work, because we’re all in it together. 95% of the world, after their long hard day putting in for the 5% that don’t work, must decide for themselves what their free time means to them. Sharing meals, talking about our jobs and our interests over these meals, working on the next event, storytelling (within which the cast of autobiography inheres, signed by all), or routinely visiting our favorite greasy spoon; these vital actions occur commonly throughout all post-neo cells, and always after the whistle blows.
“Exquisite Crypt 2” is a great example of the socio-geographical friendship building that takes place between cells; it became a sort of traveling home. Originally composed on sheets of notebook paper in pen, it saw action in two countries, England and the US, and carries additions from post-neos from three cells—Totnes, New Brunswick, and D.C. Olchar seemed to know the ideal times to work on it, always in the midst of post-neo family get-togethers, while we were sharing meals, a train ride, a late night discussion, etc. It’s function as a community builder worked hand in hand with its composition within our community.
We can’t understand each other, this is a given, but we love the ways we can’t understand each other; we understand that these ways are our way into un-misunderstanding each other. The mis-understandability of our name itself; Post Neo-Absurdism, just the fact that we have a name, a name to which we can belong, gives us a home, an alliance, a place where we are creatively married.
Working communally is about complicating (taking off from your “complicated”) yourself inside the shared intentions of a group that in some way agrees to distrusts the notion of individuality, however loose or scattered its definition of individuality is in the constantly fluctuating ‘membership’ of the anti-collective itself. This intention, for me, is to engage with the post-neo socio-creative landscape, “climb back in to it” and “make it move,” like one among many tugboats.
Many of us come out of visual arts programs, who’s soft-cop academics still promote the stale dinosaur of solitary studio practice, pitting the lone artist in a narcissistic tug of war with him/herself, thus producing gobs of behaviorist errata for the bourgeoisie to buy up pell-mell in an effort to convince themselves culture, led by hand-picked and pampered specto-geniuses, belongs to them. As David Beris Edwards says in The Perfect Action, “The art we are taught, those simple actions and the simple debates that surround them, they to which our elders and betters steer us ever-cautiously, is very far from vital.” Studio practice, like most Artistic practice, is divorced from a critical awareness of time, and therefore, others. These two things are vital.
Musicians (so glad you mentioned this) on the other hand have to harmonize. They must be aware of the contingencies and stupidity of time, how it affects the work they are doing with friends, how they move in it with them. Olchar touches on this in his explanation of the post-neo take on simultaneous poems. There must be similarities between a band’s home and post-neo home. The mutual interest, worrying about how things appear to others through time, this can carry you into and past all the mundane and frustrating logistics of sharing a living environment.
In a way executing a cabaret like Bearded Synapse or the Itinerate Mirror requires a sort of situational harmonizing, which, if we're doing it right, we later take into our lives. So much must be weighed, constantly, and especially when working out of ones home: timing, props, locations, transportation, technology, hosting, rehearsal, tempo, food, costumes, line-up, guests, sleeping arrangements, noise level, driving money, alcohol (not always a good idea … trust me), and on and on, that the event itself seems a minor riff in a much longer song. It’s in all those decisions, which are vital, that produce moments worthy of being recounted later on, that generate a shared atmosphere within the anarcho-creative experience that galvanizes and elasticizes the friendships from whence the idea for the event itself sprung.
[Editor’s note: Visible streams of the interview-correspondence continuum cease here into a having been. Is bin …