Nonsite is pleased to announce the publication of Promesse du Bonheur, a collection of new poems by Michael Fried accompanied by more than thirty photographs by James Welling. The book is appearing under the double aegis of nonsite.org and David Zwirner Books, and is available through David Zwirner Books and Amazon. To mark its publication, we offer an essay by Fried analyzing one of the poems in the collection, “September Sky,” along with an abstract photograph by Welling which serves, in the book, as an introduction to the collection.
Everyone involved in this discussion appears to live by the difference between art and life. To my knowledge, no one has suggested that Gone with the Wind is something other than a novel or that Tweeting Gone with the Wind is something other than a work of art. (No reader misrecognized it as a different kind of Twitter account – for example, a moment by moment record of the passing thoughts of Vanessa Place). Nor has anyone started a liberation movement to protect the rights or advance the interests of fictional persons.
Is damaged art still art? There are two ways to approach the question. The first is ontological; it is a question of how much a work of art can be changed, damaged, or altered (the water-logged painting, the shattered sculpture, the abridged novel) and still be thought of as the same work. The other way to approach it is political: as a question of what it means for art to represent or reflect the damage—the compromise, concession, and instrumentalization—that is an inescapable consequence of its place in a market economy and a capitalist world. To put the question this way is to inquire into the conditions of an artwork that doesn’t pre-exist its damage, one that arrives already in damaged form; “totaled in advance,” to use Jennifer Ashton’s excellent phrase. But the artwork that is totaled in advance raises in turn a further question, which is whether it is possible to differentiate intentional damage from unintentional damage, the preemptive from the inevitable. Does art that takes up the unavoidable demands of the market as its subject thereby somehow escape those demands? Or is the very point of art under such conditions simply to demonstrate its own impossibility in the face…
What should the revolutionary poet be doing, when crisis – whether it be economic, social, environmental, or for that matter, aesthetic – appears increasingly frequent, inevitable, and irreversible? Or to ask the question in a slightly different form: What poetic forms do these conditions of crisis seem to require?
Poets and critics have had some trouble discussing Vanessa Place’s piece Tweeting Gone with the Wind. I have a suggestion. Why not say that her piece is poorly written?
She explains that much liver damage is drug-induced because the liver functions as a chemical purifier, stripping the blood of toxins by splitting poisons into less destructive chemical building blocks. The resulting toxins are excreted while the cleansed blood recirculates. When an overwhelmed liver fails to break down the blood’s contaminants (even beneficial ones, such as painkillers), the pollutants poison the liver cells instead.
Attunement and transaction — rather than forcible replacement— are the preferred metaphors here for describing a good translation. And neither “attunement” nor “transaction” invokes a scenario in which something is being forcibly or forever transformed or deformed into something else.
Like Ed Sanders’s antagonistically and aptly named Fuck You Press, whose publication list includes bootleg mimeograph printings of W.H. Auden and Ezra Pound, little magazines from 1964 serve as case studies for an avant-garde scene that grapples with the enshrinement of/resistance to previous avant-gardes…and an engagement with social antagonism….Ultimately, these scenes’ interest in social self-documentation is propelled by an attempt to get around the problem posed by the relegation of poems (of whatever aesthetic genealogy) to the cultural sphere.
While we don’t tend to think of William Burroughs in terms of his engagement with the interview, in fact the form underpins much of his (and his collaborators’) work from the 1960s forwards, including the cut-up. Taking the Beat concept of self-interviewing to its extreme conclusion, Burroughs and frequent collaborator Gysin, turn the form’s interrogative function on the artist and the artwork. In doing so they highlight the interview’s potential to be a critically engaged, radical form.