Defining poetry

Screenshot 2014-09-30 21.28.41I’ve been anything but quick in answering Katie Price’s “quick question” on Jacket2. Now, my response finally joins those of Amy Catanzano, Bob Perelman, and Brian M. Reed. Each of us was asked to write a 500-word response to the question: “What is at stake in/when defining poetry?” Many thanks to Katie Price for inviting me to join the conversation. I also recommend checking out the responses to her other quick questions, the second of which is: “What is the relationship between Conceptual art and conceptual writing?” For more on this question, look out for Postscript: Writing After Conceptual Art, edited by Andrea Andersson, and forthcoming from the University of Toronto Press (the book builds on the exhibition of the same name that originally opened at the MCA Denver in 2012 and that has since been touring).

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Zhang Longxi on Comparison and Ethics

photo 3Zhang Longxi’s talk at the University of Otago on “Comparison and Ethics” is now available for download in MP3 and MP4 formats. The talk formed part of the “Comparing Comparisons” symposium, sponsored by Otago’s Comparative and Cross-Cultural Studies Research Theme (CCCS). I hope in the near future to make available Haun Saussy’s keynote address to the symposium, “Compared to What?”

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Haun Saussy on History-Writing and Moral Community in China

HUM-De Carle Lecture Saussy Poster 14The third in Haun Saussy’s series of De Carle Lectures, delivered in Dunedin, New Zealand, on Thursday, 2 October 2014, is now available for download as an MP3 or MP4. In “History-Writing and Moral Community in China,” Saussy argues that, “the Chinese claim, seen with increasing frequency in current soft-power propaganda campaigns, of ‘5000 years of history’ needs to be read in light of a process, over 2000 years long itself, of consensus-building by, of and for historians. How does such a thing as the Chinese Empire become, first an imaginary solution, then an inescapable reality, for a large part of humanity? The arts of rhetorical reading help us to see the successive articulations of what we now know as ‘China’ or ‘Zhongguo.'” Saussy’s first two lectures can be downloaded here. His fourth and final lecture will be posted shortly.

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Dmitri Prigov’s iterative poetics

Prigov 22-ia azbukaMy article on Dmitri Prigov’s “iterative poetics” (free download to 17 Jan. 2015) is just out in a special issue of Russian Literature, which also includes illuminating articles by Mary Nicholas, Ksenya Gurshtein, and Dennis Ioffe, who edited the issue. In my essay, I discuss––amongst other things––a few of the lesser-known works in Prigov’s famous Azbuka or Alphabet series, including his 22-ia azbuka (22nd Alphabet), pictured here. For a very different example of Prigov’s alphabet works, see the extraordinary video of Prigov performing his 49-ia azbuka or 49th Alphabet with the musician Vladimir Tarasov in the apartment studio of Ilya Kabakov in Moscow in 1986, along with Gerald Janecek’s commentary. My article focuses on how Prigov uses serial forms, exemplified by the alphabet series, to combine performance, sculpture, installation art, literary text, bookwork, and other genres and media in a single multimedia or post-media artistic practice. It also interrogates the wider implications of this practice for media and art theory and for conceptions of freedom.

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Haun Saussy and Olga Solovieva in Dunedin

From left to right: Olga Solovieva, Ulrich Timme Kragh, Haun Saussy, and Zhang Longxi in Dunedin, New Zealand, 10 October 2014.

From left to right: Olga Solovieva, Ulrich Timme Kragh, Haun Saussy, and Zhang Longxi in Dunedin, New Zealand, 10 October 2014.

I was lucky enough to host Haun Saussy, Olga Solovieva, and their three children in Dunedin during September and October. As the 2014 University of Otago De Carle Distinguished Lecturer, Haun delivered four brilliant public lectures in Dunedin, the first two of which are now available to download from the links below. The first lecture gives listeners/viewers a sneak preview of his book-length investigation into the rise of the concept of orality in twentieth-century thought.

“Oral vs. Written: The Curious History of a Cultural Distinction,” 18 Sept. 2014, MP4, MP3. Though it has become part of our common-sense understanding, the idea of a deep and comprehensive difference between the ways of thinking in predominantly oral and predominantly written cultures dates to the early twentieth century, at the most, and received its impetus from polemics now largely forgotten. By retracing this history, we can work out a genealogy for media studies that will accommodate a larger definition of the human.

“Doctoring the State: Plato, Hobbes, Humboldt, Hegel, Virchow,” 22 Sept. 2014, MP4, MP3. Western political philosophy, at its beginning (Plato’s Republic), introduces an analogy between medical treatment and political reform that, like all metaphors, has consequences on both the supposedly different domains that it incorporates. As long as the metaphor is viewed as a mere analogy, however, the practical relation of medicine to state survival is obscured. The historical development, through a series of political theorists, some of them physicians, explains the in-between status of the field of public health.

The photo above shows Haun and Olga with Zhang Longxi and Ulrich Timme Kragh, who also visited Dunedin in October for a symposium on comparative literature and interdisciplinarity. Recordings were also made of Haun’s and Longxi’s talks from this event and they should be available for download soon.

While in Dunedin, Olga also generously gave two wonderful talks on Kurosawa and Russia––from her forthcoming book on the subject. The image below is from her first talk, to Otago’s Department of Media, Film and Communications.


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Carla Harryman and Barrett Watten reading in Dunedin

Carla Harryman and Barrett Watten reading at Circadian Rhythm Cafe, Dunedin, New Zealand

Carla Harryman and Barrett Watten reading at Circadian Rhythm Cafe, Dunedin, New Zealand

Audio and video recordings of Carla Harryman and Barrett Watten reading at Circadian Rhythm Café in Dunedin, New Zealand, on 9 July 2014 are now available for download at the links below. Both poets read individually, as well as giving a joint performance of an extract from The Grand Piano. Their reading was part of the Octagon Collective reading series, and their visit was supported by the University of Otago Comparative and Cross-Cultural Studies Research Theme.

Carla Harryman and Barrett Watten Dunedin Reading (MP3) (73.21 MB)

Carla Harryman and Barrett Watten Dunedin Reading (MP4) (211.45 MB)

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Mikhail Iossel on Arkadii Dragomoshchenko in The New Yorker

Dmitrii Shubin, Aleksandr Skidan, and Arkadii Dragomoshchenko, 1992 (from the Borei Gallery archive)

Misha Iossel’s remembering of Arkadii Dragomoshchenko in a single sentence begins “Remember when … remember … remember how, thirty years ago, yes—after the requisite sum of money had been collected, in half-handfuls of small change and occasional crumpled rubles, for however many bottles could be afforded of whatever toxic, domestic ersatz port or esophagus-singeing Bulgarian dry red might be available that night at the basement liquor store diagonally across the darkly illuminated prospekt, five tall floors below; and then, after the eager young person dispatched to fetch the booze had returned to the loft, however many long minutes later, laden with bottles, winded but happy and greeted with discordant cheers…” The rest of Iossel’s “Sentence” is here.

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