The Poetics of Re-use

A discussion space and materials base for the reading/talk, "The Poetics of Re-use," with Brian Howe and Buck Downs, as part of the In Your Ear reading series, curated by Adam Good and Cathy Eisenhower.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

What is Re-Use? (Technological Demonstration)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

What is Re-Use?

o ex-drowsing
outlaw season
and tin simoom,
eye slurping dune
nor me, roving in
general tandem in
the past sector,
revenue cenacles,
gnomic locknuts
in retainer
+ = gem.
if not the nonzero
then thaw?
if this platting about
! = tinges, this eon
of flesh takes
tutors masticated.
I knot vital tux
trochees? kidskin dank
and telic tiffs sear gear.
for meat this terrified smell
gulps toes.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

What is Re-use?

o ex-swarming autonomies
and antimonies, ye

pulsing bend
around me, roving

arrangement as
the zap unit

etches an uneven silence,

cunning stencil
in miniature

+= me.

if not the horizon
then what?

if this talking about
!= agents, this note
to self takes note.

shortcut activated.

activation cut short?

kids like candy
and sufficient categories.

for them this different lens
sprung soft.

(asked of F7, 11/19)

What is Re-use?

purposive shuffle
fomenting travel
via comic

internal audit
of entire current.

an evening out the things wear,
turning approaching into
a mostly chaotic growth
that might sum
the fucking code.

a simple destruction kit

don't stop
banging on my notes

don't stop
lip rock
blue joint

shipping is magic.

and so is jesus.

family living
and this Tetsuo
done dosed me.

learn my seclusion and take it for honesty and
let it bloom.

(asked of the Hopper - 11/19)

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Little List

Things that can be re-used:

Materials: Images, Words, Texts, Sounds, Albums, Found Objects, etc.
Processes: Rhyme, Speaking, Line-breaking, Spell-checking, Google-searching, etc
Forms: (as containers of processes and materials): Poems, Sonnets, Novels, Essays, Interviews, Academies, etc

(obviously there will be plenty of slippage between these: the Exquisite Corpse game is both a process and a form, and, when the output or content of any one particular game is re-used as a material, it is a material.)

I don't mean to suggest that these are locked-down categories, but I find it helpful in my explorations to think along these distinction-lines; basically, this helps me remain aware of the context of the work (material + process + form) in question.

A poem (form) re-uses a quotation from a song (material) via placement on the page, resonance with other elements (and other processes), very differently from how an academic essay (form) might use the same quotation. This re-use is in turn different from how the quotation (material) might be used in a Saturday Night Live parody (form) or a conversation (form?process?material?).

My main interest in re-use, then, ultimately stems from a kind of fascination with dynamic atomism, "the beauty of embedded possibility," to re-use the words of Arlene Stamp (originally referring to her artwork based on fractals). The fact that any re-used element (any element, really) points to an "always beyond," an "always outside," and carries with it a certain residue and energy of its point(s) of origin(s). To say that things can be re-used is to point out their complete contingency and their tendency to be other. Their contexts and forms are little homes, for awhile. They have come from elsewhere and will return there.

So, Brian's statement about his F7 work, "this process felt very mystical to me, something like divination," parallels very closely my own feelings about engaging with source materials in various ways. That there is a boundless energy at play in the combinations and spark*gaps that occur when you interact with anything openly, especially if you can focus this play in some way(s) around a process or collection of processes. In Brian's case, the F7 process, in Cage's, the use of the I Ching, in Buck's "Hopper," being able to see to see large and strange patterns emerge by re-using one's own material. In some of my own explorations, reading through various books as if they were divinatory texts.

As Buck points out, learning to write ultimately amounts to copying what has been written and absorbing the various ways in which writing occurs. (And then creating extentions based on a wide variety of other influences.) Writing, internalized as a process, becomes a sort of sprite guiding one's interaction with the world. In effect, looking at anything is to re-use it according to various guides internal and external. My first really clear indication of this process was seeing Buck read from In Memory: D. Thompson., in which he walked through the Congressional Cemetary making rubbings of words on the headstones, "proceeding to discover each next word as the site and [his] ability to perceive it would disclose." Hearing this work revealed to me not just a textual strategy for the creation of poems, but also a way of looking at any textual material in the world as a field to move and play in, to "discover [new combinations] as sites and perceptual abilities allow." In other words, whenever I look at any text, some part of my looking is goverened by this experience.

A poetics of re-use might posit itself simply as an awarenss of how processes guide perception into form(s), endlessly and endlessly.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Some notes toward a personal theory of Re-Use

One of my favorite aspects of Visio is the ease with which you can simply copy objects and arrange them in various ways; it is so much more responsive to re-use than a word processing program. -- Adam Good

It is on this point, perhaps, that Adam and I diverge. I'm not familiar with the Visio software, but, having worked with Microsoft Word's spellcheck function (as well as various other internal formatting and text-alterating algorithms) for nearly three years now, having produced what must be one hundred completed poems and many more fragments using the process in this span, I have found the word processor's facility for re-use to be bottomless. This cannot be attributed to the software alone, which is governed mechanically and is only as good as its input, or the text alone, which is governed organically and is limited by its author's experience, but by the intersection of the two -- more accurately, the tension -- where they vie for dominance.

I should briefly describe my process. I use various technological media -- online translators, text databases, search engine fodder, thesaurus programs, and, centrally, MS Word's spellchecker -- to create poems. When I began working with this process, I was very interested in its techno-philosophical implications -- I was interested in producing viable poems outside of any human agency, or within a human agency that was, at most, curatorial. As I "wrote" in the manuscript's title sequence: "We see that F7 is roofed by dolorous retinas, while I primly kneel to discord, organic, and reword it." As such, I devised rigorous rules to govern the creation of each source text that I would comb over with the spellchecker, which in this instance became a sort of palette, brimming with colors I could choose from which depended upon what the program thought I might be trying to say with a certain letter combination (this process felt very mystical to me, something like divination, and it still does, although the fact that the program was designed by humans with their own ideology and disseminated by corporate interests complicates matters immensely...).

I used serial operations, chance operations, patterns and various other intrigues to devise the source texts, defined strict parameters by which I would choose the final words, and so on. Examples from this stage of the process can be seen here.

But over time, I became less interested in these implications, or at least, less interested in directly engaging them in the texts. I began then to focus more on corrupting source texts in various ways, re-arranging them according to intuition, and using the spellchecker on these more fluid creations, often times leaving syntax intact to create a more "readable" effect regardless of your knowledge of the workings of the process.

I believe that, aestetically speaking, there is *exactly enough* in the natural world. But the constructed world, aided by the Internet, cheap recording equipment and a widespread and instantaneous communcations-net, contains far too much. In such a circumstance, to conjure something "new" out of thin air (insofar as anyone does this -- "good poets borrow, great poets steal", but I'm talking about a more literal definition of re-use) seems completely unneccessary, what with so much raw signal floating around already, and so many astounding means to manipulate it.

My interest in re-use, poetically, dovetails with my interest in re-use in other media -- hip-hop and electronic music and noise music, collage-based and found-item visual art, metafiction, etc. By no means do I disregard the value of first-order production, but I prefer to manipulate the extant signals. This is where our culture speaks to itself; it is our artistic moment's defining characteristic.

If this approach sounds limiting on paper, I've found it to be just the opposite. My process is essentially hypergolic, and what's more, infinitely so -- any volume of "fuel", in this case, text, can produce an infinite series of new texts, which themselves can be recombined to make more texts, etc.

Re-use is not theft in this regard. Theft implies the loss of a physical quantity -- someone forgets their suitcase in a coffee shop, I take the suitcase, and they no longer have access to it. But text, at least within the ambit of my process, is not a depleteable resource. I take it, I manipulate it, yet the source remains unaltered and undiminished -- it's like I pick up that abandoned suitcase and an identical one instantly manifests in its place.

I'm interested in watching these transactions occur as I usher them into being, seeing what kind of augers they contain, which thematic concerns emerge, and how the new texts relate to the source texts, from which they may be wildy different (even unrecognizable), but from whose brow they undeniably sprung. It's rather like looking for yourself in your father's eyes. After spending so much time with the process, I can't help but perceive Borges' Library of Babel in every scrap of text-- through technology, I cam glimpse its endlessness.

My Foreign Letter series is an attempt to posit an endless chain of texts from a single source, to write enough of them to create a continuity and for that invisible line to be evident as stretching on eternally. The first Foreign Letter, from which all the others derive, was cobbled together from scraps of emails sent to me by an Austrian correspondent; that poem and the first "remix" can be seen here, and another here.

people is watching your ass

I guess it could be useful for somebody (given enough time) to differentiate between the kinds of re-use that everyone does all the time, and the particular instance of a re-use practice that clarifies and focuses on re-use as a foregrounded strategy.

Adam's use of the phrase 'mash-up' started me thinking down this line, because my understanding of mash-up, (which I take to be normative, of course) is that a mash-up is entirely made out of pre-existing material, e.g., you would not write/record your "own" bass line as part of the process of creating a mash-up, strictly speaking. Adam is not using 'mash-up' in this sense, since he explicitly dubs the commingling of his own written output with that of another as a mash-up.

So there is some category of "total re-use", i.e., one that eschews for any number of reasons the commingling of first-generation material with appropriated/sampled/plus-gen material. Erased books such as Jen Bervin's Nets or Ronald Johnson's Radios [sic] come immediately to mind.

I find it hard to stay interested in this straight-edge re-use, even as I admit that what it is I do instead that might form the base of a competing definition of re-use is really only writing as it has been practiced for centuries.

The only way I've ever seen anyone learn to write is by first copying out letters that someone else wrote, then copying out words that someone else wrote, then copying out sentences someone else wrote. The product of this activity comprises the majority of everything that has ever been written, even before the advent of printing. People keep copying down other people's shit, and this is what we call our civilization.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Surveillance and Sousveillance

Buck, in an earlier comment:

"There are several modes of surveillance that occur at the nerve-nexes collectively named, 'the exit'."

The text is an exit made of exits.
What is going into what the exits exit? And how?
What is coming out of the exits, and to where?

And, what is the user's relation to all this exiting?

Surveillance - from above/"outside" the text, channeling the escaping impulses into a provisional forms, a "reading." the user in the role of surveillant.

(a simplified view of a neural network: more here)

Sousveillance - from within the text, (the blue circles)=elemental forces, looking around, looking up, influencing their neighbors and their predecessors into something, the moment at which the death or non-death of the author becomes beyond moot, because elements don't care where they came from, or where they are going, they simply interact. when the user's back is turned, the text is anythings. when the user focuses attention on the text, it becomes one thing. for one moment.

to dive into the moments of elemental sousveillance and play, prior to exit, is such a thing possible?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Welcome to the Human Network - A Session Page (for Buck Downs)

I've just made something I'm calling a "session page." I'm thinking of it as a discrete field for the re-use or re-play of variables in an immediate environment. It captures a specific moment (session) of experience and interaction with texts and weathers. This session lasted about 25 minutes:

session page for buck downs

So, in this session page I am re-using on multiple levels and in multiple ways.

On one computer, I was looking at Barret Watten's "Forty Poems" matrix. On another computer I was working in Visio, entering rapid recombinations of the one-line poems into boxes, which I then moved around the page. (One of my favorite aspects of Visio is the ease with which you can simply copy objects and arrange them in various ways; it is so much more responsive to re-use than a word processing program.)

My attention was also drifting across the other environmental variables that surround me, namely the post-it notes and fragments of writing scattered around my desk. These fragments re-combine with lines from "Forty Poems," creating a kind of instant perceptual mash-up.

At the same time, I was listening to a recording in which I ask the question "Are You Your Own Twin?" to various texts (e.g. "Silence, are you your own twin?") and treat the text as a medium (in all senses of the term) that can speak through me speaking through it. This speaking occurs through a rapid recombinant reading (or RRR), in which I allow my voicing to be guided by the elements on the pages as I flip rapidly through them.
The elements of this soundtrack leaked into and influenced the composition, recombining with other phrases, guiding selection and thought processes.
With the soundtrack, then, I was re-using my own re-use of other texts.

Which gets me to two final points on re-use.
  1. Re-use should be considered in the Output phase of the object as well as its Input. In other words, we should not just focus on the re-uses that the object enacts internally; we must also (and especially) think about how the object itself will be re-used.
  2. In doing so, we should not let considerations of genre or object category limit the possibilities of re-use. The forms that I am interested in pursuing do not think they are any one particular thing. They are temporary, provisional accretions of the possible. They are guides to the future, as well as to the present.
To that end, here are some possible uses, or extensions, of this session page:
  1. Ask a question of it and do a rapid recombinant reading (RRR) to get a "response"(Sample question: "Who is B. Watten?")
  2. Lay a transparency over it, draw connections between words, and lay the transparency over another text.
  3. Make 40 40-word poems from it.
  4. Print out 1000 copies, type "Errata, p. 23" on the back, and insert into books in stores or libraries.
  5. [insert whatever here]

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Two examples of re-use

Monday, November 06, 2006

Sean Kilpatrick interview

I've been meaning for some time to post about the nature of my own poetic practices regarding re-use, in the hopes that Adam and Buck would do likewise, creating a starting point for the dialogue. This has been an uncommonly procrastinatory week for me; however, I recently discussed re-use at some length in an interview with Sean Kilpatrick, which just went up on his blog, here. Pardon me for recylcing; I'd like to amplify on some of the points in the interview as soon as I have the time.

Friday, November 03, 2006

coordinates of polaris

do as little as possible
is my watchword
and countersign
all systems conspire
toward this end

the sky is lit with ominous messages
they are messges for somebody else