A good deal of the work I produce is fundamentally about language and word-play. When I first stumble over a concept, brush my knees off and decide whether I’m gonna curb this thing and make a bracelet from its bloody teeth or take it home, clean it up and help it grow up into more than just an intellectual trip-hazard, I flip thru my bins of cultural memory. Is it something I saw somewhere and am about to re-hash? If it is, can I step it up and own it? That’s tough with book-art and text-centric conceptual art–mostly on account of a necessity to adhere to some sense of rigorous visual simplicity that subverts more elegant ideas by encoding them in the algorithm of plain sight.
That’s where freaky academic surveys like EXPERIMENTAL-VISUAL-CONCRETE: Avant-Garde Poetry Since the 1960’s come in handy. This book’s a language fan’s New Wave Hookers. It’s got it all plus a merry-go-round and a harem. I expected a mostly visual survey when I first tracked the book down. I’ll admit to a certain amount of frustration when I flipped thru it and realized how heavy it was with essays. I was thumbing past occasional reproductions of lettrism, experimental typography, poetic holography, video poetry and fluxus sound-poetry and was cognitively gut-punched by how unfamiliar I was with so much of what I was seeing. That disorientation coupled with the intense density of academic commentary led to an initial reaction of, “what is this bullshit!”
But I stepped back and thought about it. I read some of the essays and made sense of the book’s editing. I accepted the editors’ structural and evolutionary concepts–and more importantly, accepted the book as a valuable proof of how primally ideas excite consumers, harvesters and aficionados of molested text.