20121022

Alan Davies & tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE


tENTATIVELY, aN iNTERVIEW
(Forthcoming next year in book form from Six Gallery Press.)

tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE, Living a Making - foto: Joe Abeln

Alan Davies – In one of your missives you made what-I-took to-be a-disparaging-remark about rap music / connecting it with the decline of what we used to call our culture. Would you care to say more?

tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE [henceforth abbreviated "tENT"] - Did I? I'd have to reread my remark in order to comment on it. I don't think of rap music as particularly representative of the "decline of what we used to call our culture". I DO usually find it, & almost all other pop music (& rap/hip-hop is possibly the most popular of pop musics at the moment) boring b/c of things like its rhythmic simple-mindedness & its emphasis on lyrics. People who mostly or only like music w/ lyrics seem to ultimately be preferring the words 1st, & the music 2nd - expected mostly to function as a hook/propellant for the words. Since I'm actually interested in the music, I find the words to just 'get in the way'. Otherwise, I find the slam poetry skills of hip-hop vocalists to be phenomenal at times - but more formally restrictive than other forms of sound poetry.

Alan – You have made art works [question interrupted by tENT here to make a terminology-specific point]

tENT - As you probably already 'know', I stopped calling what I produce "art" as of 1978 when I publicly made the transition from "artist" to "mad scientist". The only exception to this is when I do something in the name of Tim Ore. Tim Ore is my "con artist" identity. Therefore, the vast majority of what you might be referring to as my "art work" I don't refer to as such. Many people I've known have been desperate to be thought of & accepted as "artists". I have the opposite problem: few people, or perhaps no-one, will accept me as NOT an "artist" unless their intent is to insult me. In the latter case, they 'think' (if such a word can be used for such minimally original mental activity) that I'm trying to be an "artist" & that I've failed - even when I tell them that I'm not an artist. This whole notion of calling someone something that they don't consider themselves to be & then accusing them of failing at it is a peculiar form of insidiousness. SO, to reiterate what I've proclaimed many a time before, I've long since rejected being an "artist" b/c it's my opinion that art is an uncreative context & I prefer to be creative. Of course, someone can say: 'But you make films [eg] & that's an art form!' - to wch I can just as easily reply that 'Just b/c it's an "art form" to most people doesn't mean it has to be an "art form" to me. To me, making movies is just that: making movies - w/o the unnecessary, & downright boring, additional baggage of "art".' - &, of course, it's this position of mine that makes me anathema to the art world. If I were to go by my given name & call myself an "artist" I suspect that I'd've long since become rich & famous - but that wd hardly be worth doing now wd it?!

AGAIN, of course, I can be criticized for presenting things in museum & gallery contexts. My response to this, then, is that I use whatever presentation context can & will offer me the ways & means that are convenient to what I'm presenting. THEREFORE, if a museum can: 1. pay me (although they don't pay me nearly as well as one might imagine), 2. provide me w/ high quality equipment (projectors, sound system) - then I'm happy to take advantage of this. Just as it's boring to be contextualized (& rendered 'safe') by the art world context, it's also boring (or annoying or whatever) to present things under conditions where the projector's so low quality that my projected text is unreadable, etc..

Alan [continued] - in many of the “available forms” (ie forms-already-in-use-by-others) / as well as in forms (using ways-and-means-and-with-results) that are quite probably unique to yourself. [interrupted]

tENT - I made one feature-length 16mm film entitled "The 'Official' John Lennon's "Erection" is Blocking Our View Homage & Cheese Sandwich". This film is so titled partially b/c it has footage running thru it of a parking garage being built that was blocking the view from my 5th floor warehouse space windows. The view had been panoramic & the parking-lot was doing away w/ that. At one point I thought of not shooting that footage b/c John Lennon (& Yoko Ono) had made a super-8 time-lapse film of a skyscraper being built called "Erection" (& there's a reason why I refer to it as "John Lennon's "Erection"" instead of giving credit to Ono too that's rooted in a prank of sorts of Ono's) & I wanted to be more 'original'. THEN I decided that I shdn't allow that to "block my view". I've long since decided to use whatever form I think of that suits my purpose. As such, thru Tim Ore I even leave myself open to the "art world" context - although, humorously perhaps, my Tim Ore work is probably unacceptable to the art world b/c of the way it calculatedly breaks all sorts of subtle unwritten laws. The funny thing is that much of the Tim Ore work is far more conceptual than that by so-called 'conceptual' artists like that idiot Sol LeWitt but isn't likely to ever be acknowledged as such.

Alan [continued] - You have also put a-fair-amount-of effort into documenting your art actions / in the form of “I did this – I did that – such-and-such-happened – I did the other thing – etc”. [question again interrupted by tENT]

tENT - Why not just 'actions'? I document these things largely b/c, yes, I put alotof thought & effort into them & want other people to pay attn to them - but also b/c their partial purpose is to present examples of what's POSSIBLE. EG: When my friends Dave Bakker & Randy Hoffman & I inaugurated the "B.T.O.U.C." (the BalTimOre Underground Club) in the railroad tunnel it was partially to show that such things cd be done - that one cd claim a space that other people wdn't expect to be used for such a purpose & have a really good time doing so. I'm the type of person who likes to do things to show that it's possible - like making 353 movies (the amt I've made as of Nov, 2010) for an average of considerably less than $100 a movie - so that other people can become more aware that they're not as trapped by their circumstances as they might feel themselves to be - amongst many, many other reasons. Fortunately, there are other types of people who then interject longevity into such possibilities. In other words, while I might use an illegally-accessed space for a limited-time purpose, other people make serious squats - & I respect that - partially b/c I'm not likely to do it.

Alan [continued] - Is it possible that if you had refused to undertake that documenting part of your ongoing-endeavor / others would have eventually stepped in / leaving us with something of this sort – “He did this – he did that – such-and-such-happened – he did the other thing – etc”? In other words / do you think that if you had not pursued recognition / it would eventually have pursued you?

tENT - Nah.. One of the other reasons why I document (or as I often prefer: "quasi-document") what I do is b/c so few other people have ever documented it in any perceptive way. Unfortunately, I immediately become "Tentatively A. Convenience, artist" - in other words, decades of public self-contextualizing to the contrary on my part is immediately usurped into a more 'normal' pattern: 1st name , middle initial, last name; common 'creative' 'profession'.

Kent Bye started making a documentary about me in 2001. He & I worked on it for about 7 mnths. He made a pretty good teaser for it. This teaser wasn't accepted in a BalTimOre documentary festival. I suspect it might've been one of the only things rejected. Why? It has a shot from one of my movies of a girl pissing in my mouth for one thing. But I'm sure there were many other reasons - basically it amounted to: 'We will not allow anything about this guy in our festival. PERIOD.' - This, despite the theme of the festival being documentaries about BalTimOreans & my having been a prominent BalTimOre figure for decades. Just about everything I ever did in BalTimOre (& after) challenged some 'norm' or another & somebody somewhere along the line wd try to suppress it - literally no matter what it was. & I can easily support this assertion w/ examples - but I'm getting too far afield for the moment.

Back to the question: "In other words / do you think that if you had not pursued recognition / it would eventually have pursued you?" Back to the Kent Bye story: we worked on the doc for 7 mnths & then he gave up on it saying something to the effect that he'd wanted to make a simple one-theme doc about a "political activist" & cdn't simplify me into that pattern. I proposed that he cd choose the theme of "free thinker". He didn't go for that & gave up. For yrs he advertised this doc on his website & then eventually removed it.

The thing is that I run up against resistance to my very being that's from angles most people wd never expect. EG: my bk footnotes - 1st, Amazon took its cover picture offline, 2nd, the printer has recently refused to print the cover as I designed it. Why? B/ c it's 'upside-down'. Now designing a cover 'upsidedown' certainly wdn't seem like such a big deal to you or me probably but the printer refuses to do it - claiming, outrageously, that they technically "can't". This is such a preposterous lie that it's amazing. They shd quit the printing business & become politicians! The basic thing as I see it is that they're afraid that by printing an 'upside-down' image:


it looks to their potential customers as if they're so bad that they can't even tell that they've printed a cover 'upside-down' (&, actually, they ARE that bad - given that they've sent me at least one copy of the bk w/ something like 150pp missing - certainly a sign of pathetic quality control) &/or that they're afraid of being 'satanic' (lest we forget that we live in a country chock-full of ignorant religious assholes).

The point here is that in those few instances when anyone's written about what I do it's been about 99% the case that the writings have tried to make me into something that I'm not. If I didn't historicize myself, I'd be unrecognizable to myself in other people's historicization.

Alan - In one of your Bombay Gin reviews / you note that "I gave this a 5 star rating mainly b/c there's something by Kenneth Patchen in it that I hadn't previously read" and in another review you refer to a collaboration as a "Kenneth Patchen-esque picture poem ". Until you mentioned Patchen's name / it had been all-but-lost-to-my-memory / and I don't hear him referred to by others. Why your strong interest in him/his-work?

tENT - It's been a long time since I've read Patchen, maybe even decades, & yet a feeling from him sticks w/ me. I have 6 bks by him in my collection: The Journal of Albion Moonlight, Sleepers Awake, Aflame and Afun of Walking Faces, Hallelujah Anyway, But Even So, & The Argument of Innocence. Sleepers Awake may've been the 1st one I read. I initially liked him b/c his bks have such fantastic & playful & visual poetics layouts but have other things going on too. There's a kind of 'Hallelujah, I'm a Bum!' joie-de-vivre. Sleepers Awake is great in these regards & it's from 1946. I don't know what else there was like it at the time. He seems unique to me. Your even asking about him makes me want to reread all 6 bks (actually, I've probably only read 2 or 3 of them but I'm not sure).

Patchen's a droll urban social observer who has fun w/ his subjects & his techniques. He doesn't seem to feel stuck w/ having to use 'appropriate' social commentary forms like a Dos Passos or Steinbeck novel might. (Although, I like both of them too.) I remember Patchen's playfulness the most - he seems like a precursor to what I call IMP ACTIVISM - someone who can address serious socio-political issues w/ a sense of humor. Such humor is LIBERATING rather than deadening. But, again, I probably haven't read him for 25 yrs.

To make things even better, 2 of my favorite composers have used texts of his. John Cage did a 1942 radio play in quasi-collaboration w/ Patchen called "The City Wears a Slouch Hat" that some might consider to be a minor work (including Cage) but I love it. I don't recall Cage ever saying anything about Patchen.He always stressed E. E. Cummings, Gertrude Stein, & James Joyce & he dropped Cummings later on in favor of the latter 2 - but I like Patchen more than Cummings (whose work I don't really know well enuf) or Stein (who, at this point I find somewhat insufferable - see my review of The Making of Americans at Goodreads.

The other composer is Franz Kamin. His 3 songs "All the Roary Night" (1962), "Carnival Late at Night" (1964), & "May 2nd" (1965) all use Patchen texts - & there are other pieces too that I haven't heard: "The Sea is Awash with Roses" (1961), & "The Dark Kingdom (a Patchen Assemblage)" (1963–65) (wch is actually the 3 songs mentioned above + "The Lions of Fire", "123rd Street Runs into Heaven or As We Go Out into the Staring Town…", & 3 others.. - according to a list of Kamin works online.).

[October, 2011 interpolation: I just finished my 100th feature, Spectral Evidence, & I used "Do The Dead Know What Time It Is?", "Limericks", & "I Went To The City" from Kenneth Patchen with the Chamber Jazz Sextet (music composed by Allyn Ferguson) as part of the soundtrack]

Alan - Sometimes you (or the-Mad-Scientist / or someone-else-who-might-be-associated-with-you) makes objects. Do you think of those objects as residue? / as detritus? Or / do they in some sense precede you? Or / do they exist only in the-present-moment (whatever-that-is)? I'm interested in knowing where your-thinking-about-them places them / in-time-and/or otherwise.

tENT - Sometimes I refer to some of my movies as "quasi-documentary residue" from some action or another. What yr question mainly makes me think of is my "Frame of Reference". This is a box that I made in 1975 when I was 21. In my 'resumé' that you published as the last issue of "A HUNDRED POSTERS" it's listed as item 16 & described as follows: "FRAME OF REFERENCE made - originally meant to be my last commonly understandable (academically?) informational action / object / reference point for my post FRAME OF REFERENCE/commonly-understandable schizophrenic existence to be perceived thru - involving dropping/busting a "realistic" bust of my head off a 3rd story rooftop into a box with glue in it's bottom from which an armature was/is/as erected upon which my representation of my new self "reality" (including 2 hands with 5 opposable thumbs each) - disassembleable - multiple layers of subtly different paint, kinesthetic involvement, ktp, when 21"

This 'description' (or, as I might've written then, 'd scription') doesn't really tell you very much. This is THE most elaborately conceived 'sculpture' I ever made. My bks & movies & (m)usic since then have probably been more elaborate but this Frame of Reference occupies a special place. Unlike most 'sculptural' things I've made, I still have this.


The basic idea of the Frame of Reference was that it be a medium thru wch I cd communicate after I'd become completely schizophrenic - or just incomprehensible due to my having developed a highly complex & personal language. By the time I made it I'd probably gone to Philadelphia to see the exhibit of Duchamp works there & had probably read Arturo Schwarz's The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp. I wd've been aware of Alfred Jarry but may not've read his Caesar Antichrist yet.

The extremely esoteric symbolism of works by Duchamp like "The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even" was probably important to me at the time, at least subconsciously, that I was making the Frame of Reference.

The Frame of Reference has detachable sidewalls & top. The front is meant to be removed so that a proscenium is made. What's then seen inside is a 2 floor puppet theater. The smaller, bottom floor has the fragments of the bust of my head that I made when I was 17. This bust was a high school art class assignment. The students were asked to make a bust of what they'd look like 25 yrs later. I made a very realistic bust out of clay that I then painted in primary colors in geometric shapes adapted to the biomorphism of my face. My primary ways of aging myself were to add a beard & to have the geometric shapes. These latter were projections of how willfully perverse I might become - by changing the appearance of my face to a quasi-non-biomorphic form. This, perhaps, presaged my tattoos of later yrs. The larger, top floor has a scroll backdrop that can be scrolled from side-to-side. This scroll is made of white paper. The idea was that this is the moving scenery BUT I don't think I ever intended it to have any images on it. Instead, it was intended to have shadows visible on it. As such, the moving white background wd at most provide a subtle sensation of just that, movement.

2 circular holes are in the floor separating the bottom & top floors & thru these holes protrude 2 mannequin hands w/ 2 thumbs each (contrary to the resumé description claiming "5"). I molded my own thumbs & cast them to make these extra thumbs. The hands are hypothetically to be moved from the bottom floor (but this is frustrated by limited access). The back wall can be hinged downward to enable access to the top floor only &/or the back wall can be removed altogether. The bottom floor has the sidewalls lined w/ mirrors that have tiny eye-holes in them made by scraping off the mirror backing. This is to enable looking into the bottom & seeing 'infinite regress' of reflections of the bust fragments. On the top floor there's a central armature made from clothes hanger wire that's wrapped w/ aluminum foil.

The purpose of the Frame of Reference was to enable my future self, perhaps a self alienated from most people by the extremities to wch I'd be willing to go in manifesting my imagination, to communicate w/ an otherwise uncomprehending (v)audience. Ironically, the severity of the symbolic systems used in this object wd probably be even more incomprehensible to the 'average' (v)audience than most things I've made. The Frame of Reference has actually never been used for its intended purpose but Kent Bye & I shot some pretty nice footage of it in 2001 or 2002 for his abandoned "Who is tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE?" documentary. He used this footage in his teaser for the doc & I hope to use it someday in a more elaborate explication of the project. The Frame of Reference has far more significance in my symbolic vocabulary than noted here but that seems like enuf for now.

As for "where your-thinking-about-them places them / in-time-and/or-otherwise"? I don't think I think about them much in the way you seem to be asking about. I make things. These things are an outgrowth of ideas & processes, etc. I make them both to physically manifest the ideas & processes & to make something that people who are interested in things & who enjoy things can experience. They're 'remotes' of me &/or of whatever I 'channel'. I read & witness movies & listen to music every day. I seek out & like the stimulation & the entertainment. What I make is for people who're similarly motivated, for people willing to be challenged by complex signifiers. They're "seeds", as I often call them. I'm hoping that something grows from them that'll create a more intelligent & inspired environment than what I feel I'm generally surrounded by.

Alan - I see from your Goodreads posts that you read a fair amount of science fiction. Do you find that the genre is capable of predicting the future? Is that why you read it?

tENT - Sometimes people say that such-n-such is their such-n-such - meaning that they feel a close personal bond to it b/c they grew up w/ it & b/c it addressed issues of deep personal contemporaneity. In other words, eg, a person reaching puberty in 1966, as I did, who discovers music by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Moby Grape, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Mothers of Invention, Captain Beefheart & his Magic Band, Jefferson Airplane, Bonzo Dog Band, the Soft Machine, etc, as I did, will feel that this is their music b/c it was developing contemporaneously w/ their own growth & addressing issues like expanded consciousness, revolt against societal programming, anti-war, etc..

For me, SF (so abbreviated in order to allow for alternate readings such as "Speculative Fiction") was developing in a particular way during the time of my discovery of it that highly paralleled my own personal development. Of course, SF can be sd to've originated in the 19th century & that, therefore, to associate it w/ my discovery of it in the early-to-mid 1960s is misleading.

& it cd be further claimed that everything develops in sync w/ its time of production. Obviously, the counter-claim to the latter is that some forms are in use b/c of a desire to return to the time of the form's origin. Hence 'realistic' social novels cd be taken as expressive of a desire, of sorts, to return to the time of, say, Jane Austen. While I don't necessarily claim that, I wd say that SF, or at least the SF I prefer to read, has more consistently addressed life as I perceive it, & as I prefer to be engaged w/ it, than other conventional narrative genres. Glaring examples of the latter wd be things like Westerns & Romance novels.

SO, J. G. Ballard's series of contemporary psychopathological dystopia novels were very easy to identify w/ even though they're 'exaggerations'. Given how utterly destructive & obsessive 'car culture' is, is it any wonder that Concrete Island or Crash might result? It's not the 'futuristic' prediction aspect of such bks that I'm necessarily attracted to - it's their re-examination of current existence in analogous fictionalizations. Like so much SF, Greg Bear's Blood Music & Greg Egan's Permutation City magnify possibilities of technological 'development' that're both exciting & devastating in their broad sweep of paradigm shiftings.

Samuel R. Delaney's Dhalgren depicts a society not so unlike the Baltimore that I spent my early adulthood in & his Triton postulates a world where there's a "ul", the "unlicensed sector", a lawless zone, from whence come street performers - a lifestyle not so unlike my own at the time I was reading it. Delaney addresses philosophical issues & examines possibilities central to any serious anarchist's concerns: what do you do about sadists in a society w/ or w/o law? What do you do about any non-consensual activities of any sort?

Stanislav Lem explores Probability Theory in The Chain of Chance, Michel Jeury explores multi-national drug companies & the financial politics of entering an alternate universe in Chronolysis. Philip K. Dick explores how 'reality' is structured thru one's often drug-mediated experience of it in just about every bk. Ursula K. LeGuin explores solipsistic possibilities of how 'reality' is determined in The Lathe of Heaven. Much of all the SF I love explores possibilities of what human limits might be superceded by admittedly highly dangerous experiments aimed at transcendence. [yes, yes, I 'know': "superceded" is 'correctly' spelled "superseded" - I prefer the implied relationship to words such as "preceded" - so just think of it as an etymological reference to Middle English & French than as one to Latin] Vladimir Savchenko's Self-Discovery is another excellent example.

& there's plenty of politics to satisfy me: Arkady & Boris Strugatsky's Prisoners of Power is a remarkably clear-headed piece from 1970s-era USSR. Slightly more recently, there's Joan Slonczewski's 1986 A Door into Ocean - a novel of great interest to anyone who thinks that pacifist resistance to imperialism is possible & preferable to violent revolution.

W/ all that sd, though, for me SF has probably ceased to be the stimulus it once was. Cyberpunk & the 'hard-science' of Egan & Bear bring things up-to-date but it still seems somehow 'antiquated' to me. I 'need' more & I reckon that's what I, personally, am trying to offer. I read an enormous amt of fiction & it serves as stimulus & escape but the type of escape I'm ultimately looking for is not the escape from being aware of one's prison by submerging one's mind in an alternate universe - but the escape from one's prison thru actual physical disengagement. Until SF helps accomplish that more directly, it won't really be living up to its potential - less escapism, more actual escape.

Alan – Even those beginning to become familiar with your work / will note that you work in more genres than do most artists (or (to use your preferred designation) mad scientists) – it is almost a matter of understatement to refer to you as a-Renaissanceman. But / the times in which we live seem to be anything but (but (anything but)) a renaissance. How does this disjunction strike you? and how do you deal with it?

tENT - Ha ha! That's a 'funny' sort of dilemma isn't it?! I'm a very prolific film & vaudeo maker, writer, Low Classical (M)Usician, 'performer', & even (sometimes) a political activist. & I'm a publisher. & I work for a living ("Living a Making" as a movie I'm working on is called). In this latter capacity I've washed dishes, owned & run a bkstore, been a hard-wood floor finisher, installed & deinstalled things in museums, been a projectionist, driven cars, done more general construction work, etc, etc.. I make clothes. Etc, etc..

& how am I generally referred to? 'Oh, he's not really a musician, he's a performance artist; Oh, he's not really a writer, he's a filmmaker.' In other words, I'm so marginalized in any historicization in any of the areas that I'm so prolific in that it's as if I don't exist at all. 358 movies in 35 yrs? Try to find mention of that anywhere in any bk or magazine. Therefore, I must not be conceived of by many as a 'Re-naissance-man', but more as an Unnaissance-man, eh!

It seems to be a popular misconception that it's close to impossible for anyone to excel at anything unless they specialize in it. To make matters worse, if one exhibits calculatedly original facets to what one does excel in, esp if one works in what're supposedly separate mediums, then these are commonly considered to be mistakes: 'Obviously the guy can't spell - he writes "alotof" - what kinda word is that?' As such, one can go from being accomplished in many mediums to being perceived as an idiot in all of them.

What doesn't seem to occur to most people is that this separation of activities into categories is not some sort of 'law of nature' but is simply something that's done in order to try to have a particular critical language. Hence we have poetry differentiated from fiction not b/c this is 'absolutely necessary' but b/c people seem to find it easier to analyze things (or pseudo-analyze them) when they can create boundaries for them.

But boundaries can be fluid or non-existent &, obviously, many people have explored this - often to reluctant critical kudos: 'AN ARTIST WHO EXPLORES TEXT & DANCE SIMULTANEOUSLY!' I'm reminded of reading Luis Buñuel quoted as saying something to the effect that people are astounded when an 80 yr old man can still fuck - as if he's a prodigy.

What I'm getting at is that for me, it's all under the category of 'What I do' - so is it really so impossible that I might be just 'good' at 'doing what I do'? In other words, all of what I accomplish is somehow part of a whole or interpenetrated or whatever. My movies are often quasi-documentaries of my (m)usic w/ shitloads of text to be read - often w/ a political point somewhere in there. I think this is what partially makes them so insufferable for most people - they seem to require an ability to pay attn to too many types of things at once. Big deal, right? Have you ever listened to music w/ headphones on while reading on the subway & still managed to get off at the right stop? Is it that much different from texting while driving? What I'm asking for is just that people text OuLiPian Haikus while driving bumper cars - maybe w/ a little sex thrown in. Is that so much to ask?

As for whether or not we live in a renaissance? Do you know the Mike Judge 2005 movie "Idiocracy"? In my more depressed moments, its look at the future in wch everything dumb about this society (Hooters, eg) becomes the ONLY thing is all too true. I've already commented on this in relation to the way language seems to be continually getting dumbed down: all music is songs, all songs are played by bands, you can buy it all from the iTunes Store, you can listen to it on yr iPod. Who 'needs' anything else? (Unless it's more expensive, of course)

This seems much more where we're headed than any renaissance does. Sometimes I think that the majority of humanity is degenerating into a homogeneous superorganism in wch each 'individual' human is little more than a cell. This 'superorganism' may be able to 'accomplish' alot more in terms of scale but the types of inspiration that 'individuals' are capable of may be completely lost. Personally, I refuse to be incorporated into the Corpus Reductio Absurdum.

Alan – I would be interested in knowing which books first struck you / as a boy / which authors – and the reading of what things might have pointed (pushed?) you in the direction of writing and the other arts.

tENT - Whew! Considering how much I read & how much I've read, answering that question is a tall order! Some of the bks that still stick w/ me somehow are:
'Victor Appleton' - Tom Swift
J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan and Wendy
Briggs' How to Draw Cartoons - I might not've actually read this one but I remember
          loving it.
Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass
'Franklin W. Dixon' The Hardy Boys Mysteries
Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time
A bk on Greek Myths that I no longer have & don't recall much more about - except that it
          was probably illustrated & aimed at kids.
Norman Juster & Jules Feiffer's The Phantom Tollbooth
Edward Lear's A Book of Nonsense
J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit
Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer & The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Evans G. Valens' Me and Frumpet: An Adventure With Size and Science - wch I only
          learned recently is called that - I always remembered it as just Frumpet.
E.B. White's Stuart Little & Charlotte's Web
That list is a bit misleading since it's in roughly alphabetical order &, therefore, starts w/ Tom Swift followed by Peter Pan and Wendy wch was probably one of the least important of all the bks mentioned.

Of course, the Tom Swift & Hardy Boys bks were series that were written by many authors pseudonymously. Even remembering that these exist at this late date makes me want to reread some of them.

I think I read all of these by the time I was 9. I'm pretty sure that I read The Hobbit when I was 9 & that might be the 'most sophisticated' one of the lot so reading the others by that age isn't too unlikely.

It's not too hard to find things that these bks had in common that're still meaningful to me today. The White bks anthropomorphized a mouse & a spider, etc - wch fed into my natural inclination to identify w/ non-human life. Of course, Carroll & Tolkien did much the same thing. There's science, there's myth, there's fantasy; nonsense, struggle, freedom, hero's journeys. Twain's sense of justice.

Kids bks seem to be generally written by people w/ a sense of ethics, people who want to inspire children to aspire to leading a life of integrity pushing for just societies. I often say that I learned my values more from Marvel & DC comics than I did from church - wch I went to until I became an atheist at age 15. So the comics were very important to me too. Wch brings up "Mad" magazine, "Cracked", "Sick", "Famous Monsters of Filmland"..

Kids who immerse themselves in such things have the potential to have a superhero fantasy core to their personality. Probably most of them either 'grow out of it' or sidetrack it by staying fantasists - most commonly stoners & gamers these days. Or they get defeated by a society that's definitely NOT sympathetic: 'Get a job & do my bidding SLAVE!' may as well be written all over the 'opportunities' for debasement (ie: 'advancement').

Between ages 10 & 13 or so I started reading more authors like Edgar Rice Burroughs & Robert A. Heinlein. I read something like 17 Burroughs novels in quick succession - mostly the "Pellucidar" ones about the Hollow Earth. 17 yrs later, I organized the "Sinnit-Nut Hollow Earth Symposium" in a cave in WV, recorded the event & published that as a tape. Heinlein's Have Space Suit Will Travel was, no doubt, a big stimulus to imagining what just might be possible someday-in-the-not-necessarily-too-distantfuture. Less than 30 yrs later I was doing things in conjunction w/ the AAA (Association of Autonomous Astronauts) - a far cry from what Heinlein imagined but, still, related (at least in my own personal development).

Heinlein's quite a subject in & of himself. His Farnham's Freehold is a combination of American cold war bomb shelter paranoia coupled w/ incest fantasy. It wasn't until much later that I realized that Heinlein seems to have had quite a thing for incest. In To Sail Beyond the Sunset, the last novel published before he died, the SF is a thin pretext covering up what's basically a full-blown (pun intended) incest fantasy. I'm happy to say that Heinlein's incest promotion is not one of the things that influenced me. I read his Stranger in a Strange Land when I was 16 & more or less lost interest in him after that. Nonetheless, despite Heinlein's generally imperialist politics, he was a friend to Philip K. Dick & an influence on Samuel Delaney - 2 of my favorite SF writers - & I can certainly understand that. Heinlein inspired me to imagine, as I wrote before, what might be possible & I'm forever grateful for that.

Around the same time, I was voraciously reading (I 'know': that's a cliché phrase but nonetheless apt) as many fantasy trilogies as I cd find: Tolkein's Lord of the Rings & Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast Trilogy. William Morris' The Well at the World's End was published in 2 volumes. E.R. Eddison's The Worm Ouroborous deserves to be listed here too even though it was a single volume.

Of course, by the time I was a teenager my literary tastes had considerably expanded to include 'classics' like Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Hesse, Dickens, Austen, Gautier, Poe, Maupaussant, Hugo, Swift, Steinbeck.. - so many hundreds of authors that any list here will be misleadingly small.

Richard Brautigan & Kurt Vonnegut, Jr, are 2 examples of more contemporary writers I wd've discovered as a teen.

One of my fondest memories of high school is of when I was in an Honors English class when I was 15: I gave my teacher a list of something like 75 short stories that I'd read in the recent past only to discover that we'd left behind the subject of short stories a wk or so before. I hadn't been paying attn in class at all. The teacher was still impressed anyway.

&, indeed, the small list above is just that: SMALL. I read ALOT - both past & present tense. [October 22, 2011 note: Ever since Alan asked me this question I've been thinking of all the bks I read when I was a child. I must've read 3 or more bks a wk: there may've been THOUSANDS. Another important one that I remembered recently was Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book. It's funny thinking about that one in relation to my preference for the 'wild' & 'feral'.]

I started writing 'seriously' when I was 13. I've written about these early days elsewhere (in my bk footnotes). My 1st, & basically ONLY short story was about escaping from a mental institution thru (a) laundry chute(s). Then I kept a dream diary. Alas, neither of those examples of juvenilia escaped my purges of a few yrs later. Perhaps most importantly to me now are my '1st published works': my 3 high school yrbk entries. My 16 yr old self-description:
"Nascent, orthopteran, sabaist, luxated, oleographic, turgid; labiac, excogitate, accentric, hydrophytic, crispy, intarsia, magnetize."
It's practically a miracle that this was allowed into the Woodlawn Senior High School 1970 yrbk. Can you find the hidden message? Alas, my 1971 yrbk entry, wch was far more encoded (& wch I no longer have a copy of) had most of my entry removed altogether & the rest of it butchered. It became this:
""Tinselbrain." 71. Captain Spanzer's Conch Shell, Harmonica, & Kazoo Band. Enjoys box opening, harp destroying, reading. Favorites: Mothers of Invention, Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band, Frumpet, "Lord of the Rings," "Stranger in a Strange Land," "Wrinkle in Time," "Gormeing Mast," Trilogy, The Band."
Of course, according to the way the yrbk editors organized things, Frumpet shd be "Frumpet" & "Gormeing Mast," Trilogy shd be "Gormenghast Trilogy". "Tinselbrain" was a nickname that had been preceded by "Tinseltoes" - I don't remember ever having been called Tinselbrain & it's not in my list of names in my 1st bk (written only a few yrs later) but I suppose it's possible. "Captain Spanzer's Conch Shell, Harmonica, & Kazoo Band" was probably an imaginary group invented by my friend Doug Retzler. "box opening" meant fucking (box = vagina) so I'm glad that made it past the censors. "harp destroying" referenced my rather ferocious harmonica playing.

Writing this reminiscence has been fun - partially b/c it jogged my memory & partially b/c all these stories are what a Jungian might call (but probably wdn't?) my Formative Archetypes.

Alan – What is your take on the spiritual? – how does it figure in your works?

tENT - I remembered the statement "When I hear the word 'culture' I reach for my revolver" as having been attributed to André Breton (the 'Pope' of Surrealism) or some other Surrealist - &, yet, when I look for attribution online I find it credited to Herman Goering (the nazi Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe, the German Airforce, & 2nd-in-command under Hitler) & Heinrich Himmler (the nazi Chief of Police, Minister of the Interior, & overseer of the concentration &
extermination camps).

SO, in an attempt to clarify this, I searched on Wikiquotes' "List of Misquotations" & found this:








"Whenever I hear the word 'culture' I reach for my revolver."
* The actual quote is "Wenn ich Kultur höre ... entsichere ich meinen Browning!" This translates as: "Whenever I hear [the word] 'culture'... I remove the safety from my Browning!"
* This quote is often mistakenly attributed to leading Nazi Hermann Goering, or occasionally to Julius Streicher, a lower-ranking Nazi. This misattribution may date from the famous Frank Capra documentaries (Why We Fight) shown to American troops before shipping out.
* In fact, it is a line uttered by the character Thiemann in Act 1, Scene 1 of the play Schlageter, written by Hanns Johst. The association with Nazism is appropriate, as the play was first performed in April 1933, in honor of Hitler's birthday.
* Baldur von Schirach, head of the Hitlerjugend, delivered this sentence in a public speech, circa 1938. A footage of the scene, with von Schirach actually drawing his gun, appears in Frederic Rossif's documentary "from Nurnberg to Nurnberg".
* Notes: It is possible that this is actually a rather more felicitous phrase in translation than it is in the original. Both the original German and this English translation were juxtaposed by Howard Thomas in his review of an article by Nicholas H Battey in the Journal of Experimental Biology, December 2002, as "the famous words of Hanns Johst: 'Wenn ich Kultur höre ... entsichere ich meinen Browning' - 'Whenever I hear the word culture, I reach for my revolver.'"
* The phrase itself may be a play on words as the word Browning may refer to both a pistol and the English poet Robert Browning.
* Additionally it should be noted that a Browning (most likely the M1935 High- Power) is not a revolver, but a magazine-fed semi-automatic pistol. However, at the time the word "Browning" was used to refer to any pistol, much as "Colt" is used for any revolver in westerns.

What I want to 'know' is this: If the play in wch this phrase 1st appeared was in "April 1933", then why is the Browning most likely a "M1935 High-Power" given that the "M1935" was developed in 1935. I mean like, duh, dudes - you're supposed to be correcting misinformation not spreading it!

When I hear people speak about their own 'spirituality' I have much the same reaction - I'm immediately suspicious. People often refer to 'spirit' instead of 'god' as a way of expressing their investment in a 'non-material 'higher' 'essence'' 'free' of religious baggage. In other words, 'I believe in the spirit as the pure guiding force of all good impulses'.

What I find that this usually means is something more along the lines of 'I can disguise my own sleazy ulterior motives by camouflaging them w/ references to an intangible higher authority that I am supposedly deeply in tune w/.' In other words, bullshit, dogshit, cowshit, humanshit, eatshit, seenoshit, hearnoshit, speaknoshit. In OTHER other words, I'm not sure I've ever met a 'spiritual' person who didn't strike me as a fraud.

So what does that say about the concept of the 'spirit' & the 'spiritual'? At the risk of overquoting Wikiwhatever, "spirituality" is presented in the opening paragraph of its Wikipedia definition as:
"Spirituality can refer to an ultimate or immaterial reality; an inner path enabling a person to discover the essence of their being; or the “deepest values and meanings by which people live.” Spiritual practices, including meditation, prayer and contemplation, are intended to develop an individual's inner life; such practices often lead to an experience of connectedness with a larger reality, yielding a more comprehensive self; with other individuals or the human community; with nature or the cosmos; or with the divine realm. Spirituality is often experienced as a source of inspiration or orientation in life. It can encompass belief in immaterial realities or experiences of the immanent or transcendent nature of the world."
My questions are:

If spirituality is an "immaterial reality" why is that "ultimate"? Why is there a hierarchy in wch immateriality is 'better' than materiality?

I find the immaterial & the material both interesting but I feel no need to rank them in relation to each other. Religion & spirituality & the 'divine rights' of kings are all ways of creating a hierarchy that justifies domineering & parasitic practices.

"Rinpoche"? "Precious one"? Gimme a break. What makes a Tibetan Buddhist any more "precious" than anyone or anything else? "an inner path enabling a person to discover the essence of their being; or the “deepest values and meanings by which people live.” An inner path? Fine, I reckon I have one of those. Does it enable me "to discover the essence of [my] being"? What makes anyone think there IS an "essence" of being?! If by "deepest values" is meant those values that one values most strongly then I'm all in favor of being conscious of what those are - but it seems to me that what we're talking about here is simply SELF-AWARENESS & that references beyond that are more obfuscating than they are clarifying.

"Spiritual practices, including meditation, prayer and contemplation, are intended to develop an individual's inner life": How about introspection as a way of developing one's "inner life"? Why the 'spiritual' trappings? My 'answer': the 'spiritual' trappings are a way of misguiding a person away from self-knowledge by providing paths w/ externally imposed & prestated limits, procedures, & outcomes. 'Spiritual leaders' are like traffic cops in a world where staying on the road serves no practical purpose. An introspective person may find things w/in themselves that're deviant from established 'spiritual' practices & that's a nono. As such, I think that a person's "inner life" is, under spiritualism, more likely to be a facsimile - a cookie cutter fake, a symbol, a PR put-on.

"such practices often lead to an experience of connectedness with a larger reality, yielding a more comprehensive self; with other individuals or the human community; with nature or the cosmos; or with the divine realm": What I often refer to are "entity boundaries": where does one thing end & another begin? Yes, I define "me" as a specific physical entity bounded in a particular way. Nonetheless, I don't need 'spirituality' to realize that there's an apparently infinite connection between me & everything else. I'm sitting on a chair breathing in air - w/o this air I'd be dead. I'll be taking in food, the food has been made from some other living thing, I process it, I shit it out. My shit becomes nourishment for plants to grow. & this is all on an immediate local obvious level. I AM PART OF A GREATER WHOLE. I don't need to romanticize this.

A moronicism of Christinanity is: "How can you see such a beautiful sunset & not believe in God?" What I ask is: "Why do you need the concept of 'God' to enable you to appreciate the sunset?" Needing such an extraneous concept for such appreciation seems disrespectful of the sunset. I can appreciate the sunset, or whatever else I witness, for its own intrinsic characteristics. I can appreciate my own interconnectedness to everything else w/o adding a superfluous, & interfering, pseudo-philosophy to it.

SO, "How does [spirituality] figure in [my] works?" It doesn't. There're ideas/things/whatever that are important to me. I try to address these, make these more palpable thru actions/creations. That's good enuf for me.

Alan – Quite a number of the works that you’ve made have been driven by concepts (often humorous / pataphysical). Do you feel an alliance with the conceptual poetry that has been gaining a slight bit of momentum these past couple of years? What distinguishes your work (your works) from theirs?

tENT - I mainly or entirely 'know' about conceptual poetry thru hearing about it from my girlfriend, the poet/poem Amy Catanzano, & I can't name a single conceptual poet other than its most well-known representative, Kenneth Goldsmith. [actually, I 'know' a little bit about Christian Bök too - who seems pretty interesting] Nonetheless, there're times when Amy & I think that I've been a 'conceptual poet' for longer than most, if not all, people associated w/ it - even though I prefer to NOT self-define as a poet (Amy calls me a "poem" - I like that better - but mainly b/c she calls me that). I prefer my own terminology - such as: homonymphonemiac & practicing promotextual.

Here're quotes from Goldsmith re the subject that I took offline as interrupted by me:
"In brief, Conceptual writing or uncreative writing"
Goldsmith starts off conflating "conceptual writing" w/ "uncreative writing". It seems obvious to me that that's his personal take & that that has next-to-nothing to do w/ the meanings of the words as they're ordinarily used. In other words, what's intrinsic to "conceptual" that makes it "uncreative"? W/ that in mind, why bother to use the term "conceptual writing" at all? Why not call it "the motion of the air when a pen is falling on Mars writing" instead? That has as much to do w/ "uncreative writing" as "conceptual writing" does. Calling it "uncreative writing", however, is creative.
"is a poetics of the moment,"
He's defining it w/o seeming to bother much w/ the etymology & other associations of the words. If "conceptual writing" were to acknowledge "conceptual art" (or "concept art") as its precursor, then it wd be defined very differently. [Amy tells me that Goldsmith does address conceptual art somewhere but I haven't read that] I think not defining it in terms of its obvious etymological precursors is almost interesting.. but not really enuf so for me b/c I'm not convinced that doing so is a highly conscious enuf choice. But, then, Goldsmith runs UbuWeb so he obviously knows his shit so maybe I'm underestimating him. I wonder what he thinks about the texts of Vito Acconci, eg, in wch Acconci used only clichés - as he did in part of his vaudeo "The Red Tapes" (1976-77). As w/ my criticism of calling "conceptual writing" "uncreative writing", I see no intrinsic reason why it 'shd be' "a poetics of the moment".
"fusing the avant-garde impulses of the last century with the technologies of the present, one that proposes an expanded field for 21st century poetry."
That just reads like a grant proposal to me. Technologies, blah, blah; 21st century, blah, blah.
"Conceptual writing’s concerns are generally two-pronged, as manifested in the tensions between materiality and concept."
Ok.
"Conceptual writing obstinately makes no claims on originality. On the contrary, it employs intentionally self and ego effacing tactics using uncreativity, unoriginality, illegibility, appropriation, plagiarism, fraud, theft, and falsification as its precepts;"

This is such a boring subject to me that I can barely muster the energy to reply to it. The above statement obviously harkens back to Andy Warhol & I've heard that Goldsmith's Soliloquy (1997) has been compared to Warhol's 'novel' a (1968). This comparison is based on both being transcriptions of recordings of speech, etc.. I read a in the early 1970s & found it interesting b/c it seemed like such an extreme thing for Warhol to've done at the time - I admired the efficiency of it as a way of creating a 'novel' w/ very little effort on the part of the 'author'. Obviously it challenged notions of 'authorship'.

Then there was my own "Compliments to Vesna" (1983) in wch I carried around a tape recorder & goaded people into complimenting my girlfriend of the time, video artist Vesna Miksiç, & recorded the results. Vesna wasn't necessarily well-liked so the compliments were a bit forced at times. This was just published in recorded form since transcription wd've depleted the intonation & contributed nothing.

However, it's when we come to the Stewart Home notions of neoism as expressed in his SMILE magazines in the 1980s & in his novel Pure Mania (1989) that we come philosophically closest to Goldsmith's above statement.

Emphasis on effacing "the self and the ego" were (& still are) probably better served thru collective identities such as Monty Cantsin & Karen Eliot than they were by attaching Goldsmith's own name to his product. But Goldsmith's use of his own name (is it his given name?) is a more conventional artistic career move: 'I'll efface my self & ego as long as it doesn't interfere w/ my career'. If he were just another Monty Cantsin it wd be much more self & ego effacing but it wd be a terrible career move. Lardy, what a bore.

Goldsmith's statement is close enuf to many of Home's (usually made as Monty Cantsin or Karen Eliot) to be a plagiarism &, of course, Home was also plagiarizing. As such, there's a tradition in place, a collective identity. When Cantsin & Eliot were putting forth such statements in SMILE form in the mid 1980s it was fun for me. But when it deteriorated into a lazy career-building technique it wasn't fun for me anymore. Pure Mania was (a little) fun, the succeeding repetitive novels weren't. I'll take texts written by 'original' authors anyday. Any critique of 'originality' made by Goldsmith's manifesto have already been made better by others & such critiques serve no purpose for me anymore.

Yes, 'originality' is problematic; there will always be ways of pointing out that people use language as a system that pre-exists them. I did this in the 1970s by putting my texts in quotes - to show that I didn't invent the language I was using. But there's still a distinction to be made between inspired creators & uninspired ones. I'll take Alfred Jarry over Dean Koontz anyday. Home milked a lazy technique that grabbed the public's attn for awhile & that appealed to lazy readers. Of course, Stewart also had plenty of other things going that were far more interesting - such as his donor card in wch he leaves his body to necrophiliacs - or his 'fake' neoist website designed to irritate other neoists.

In the long run, though, I find both Home's & Goldsmith's statements re the use of plagiarism & whatnot as not interesting. Either the products provide me the stimulation I thirst for or they don't. Mostly they don't.
"information management, word processing, databasing, and extreme process as its methodologies; and boredom, valuelessness, and nutritionlessness as its ethos."
Whatever. I don't want to be bored, I don't want my experience to be valueless & I doubt that Goldsmith does either. Given that anything that we take into ourself/ves is a form of food, promoting "nutritionlessness" in language is ok as a provocation but useless to me otherwise. I wdn't choose to eat only nutritionless food, I'd die quicker than I'm already dying; & I'm not going to do the same w/ language. Goldsmith's strategies wd be stimulating for me if I hadn't already heard it all before - but I have.

Obviously, concept(ual) art grew out of Marcel Duchamp's emphasis on the idea & the ideas were new but Goldsmith's conceptual writing is a deliberate debasement of that, as was Home's.
"Language as junk, language as detritus. Nutritionless language, meaningless language, unloved language, entartete sprache, everyday speech, illegibility, unreadability, machinistic repetition. Obsessive archiving & cataloging, the debased language of media & advertising; language more concerned with quantity than quality."
Right. As my friend Doug Retzler says: "Yadda, yadda." I don't want more "quantity than quality" in my life &, again, I doubt that Goldsmith does either. If he did, UbuWeb wd just have commercials on it - or any kind of filler junk - & he'd invade everyone's computers w/ spam - or publish on billboards or whatever. The problem for me w/ the above statement of his is how he conflates all these things together in one list. But I don't want to fall into the obvious trap of discussing deliberately controversial statements. Some of the above interests me, some of it doesn't. None of it necessarily strikes me as conceptual writing - except as defined by Goldsmith.
"Conceptual writing is more interested in a thinkership rather than a readership. Readability is the last thing on this poetry’s mind."
Alright, I really don't want to spend much more time on responding to Goldsmith's statement so I've deleted a few of the sentences in the interest of jump-cutting ahead. A "thinkership" is fine w/ me. I doubt that conceptual writing promotes that any more than most other theory-based writing. Andy Warhol sd much the same thing about his films. I don't find them very interesting either - & I think most of the 'scholarship' that surrounds them is a waste of energy. I've never read a Goldsmith bk - maybe I will someday but I'm not in any hurry. If he's not interested in "readability" then he shd consider the possibility of not wasting trees for getting them printed. But, of course, that might not explore the "tensions between materiality and concept" that he expresses interest in.

Much of my own writing is certainly 'unreadable' by most people's standards - take things like "rfeEINr Ashaircnm" as published in Vertov from Z to A - so I wdn't claim that "readability", as usually conceived, is exactly my main concern either. As such, much of my writing might be classified under "conceptual writing" too - but I have no desire or interest to 'justify' it w/ specious arguments of the type that Goldsmith provokes w/. Each piece has an originating concept & the resultant form reinforces this concept - regardless of whether this makes it conventionally 'readable' or not.
"Conceptual writing is good only when the idea is good; often, the idea is much more interesting than the resultant texts."
Again, this is just a rehashing of part of Warhol's philosophy. I want the idea to be interesting & the result to be interesting - if they aren't both interesting then the originating idea probably won't be interesting to me either. If both aren't interesting then, to me, making the result is a waste of time. We already live in an "Idiocracy" - my intention is to combat this, not to contribute to it.

As stated earlier, I don't use the term "conceptual writing" in relation to my own texts - & I'm even less inclined to do so w/ Goldsmith's dominating the defining of it. If "the idea is much more interesting than the resultant texts" then "ineptual writing" is probably a better term. Unfortunately, Goldsmith's defining is just what the art market 'needs' - more shallow controversy that promotes careers. Career artists who rely on specious theory to place themselves in the public eye are a waste of intellectual energy. Much of Warhol & Home & Goldsmith is smack-dab in the middle of that. But putting their career-building strategies aside there's plenty there of interest for me. I'm sure Goldsmith's a smart & funny & stimulating guy. He's probably fun to have a conversation w/. & if he makes a career out of all this I don't really resent it.

In the meantime, I, personally, prefer to pursue my Low Classicism in obscurity rather than adding to the general dumbing-down w/ theories that encourage any more junk product than we already have - even if the encouragement has a contrary subtext. & I'd rather read topology filtered thru Franz Kamin than Warhol filtered thru Goldsmith.

Alan – Do you think that art can change political and social reality? If so / how? and in what ways?

tENT - Perhaps I think that EVERYTHING can change EVERYTHING. What I might be most interested in is SOMETHING that changes NOTHING - or, to rephrase, SOMETHING that cannot change ANYTHING. That wd be quite a challenge, eh? A rock dropped on the ground blocks out sunlight for what's underneath it - subsequently plants needing sunlight won't grow under the rock; a dead body rots & offgases - this changes the atmosphere.

A question such as yrs is usually loaded w/ implication. Let's imagine a more specific hypothetical restatement:

A specific socio-political situation exists that a creative person wants to change. Let's say there's an oppressive & intolerant government that scapegoats part of the population by dehumanizing them & persecuting them. The creative person wants to address this unfairness in a way that's likely to lead to the government's policy changing in favor of greater equality & tolerance. Is it possible for this person to accomplish this? OF COURSE! But that doesn't mean they will.

In all societies public opinion can shape the overall socio-political situation - wch is why ruling elites invest so much time & energy in controlling public opinion so that it serves the elite interests. Crude dictatorships enforce their version of consensus 'reality' thru fear; slick dictatorships enforce it thru mass media oversimplification.

Creative people find creative ways of putting their own 'realities' out there. They don't even necessarily have to do so thru mass media means. Ideas can spread & grow in all sorts of ways. Ask yrself this: where do jokes originate from? Someone tells you a joke that they heard from someone else who heard it from someone else, etc.. This joke can spread w/o having to have an identifiable point of origin &/or dissemination. If people think it's funny it spreads widely & wildly.

Why not the same process or type of process for socio-political basises? The thing is that changing conditions thru creative activity or other means isn't necessarily an obvious process. [take these examples: Anti-Neoist Rally (2000): & TV 'News' Commits Suicide (2009): & Vermin Supreme's Real Life Adventures from the Campaign Trail - these are on my "onesownthoughts" YouTube channel] I often suggest imagining this: if you think that creative activity is ineffectual, imagine life w/o creative activity - for most of us, including, I suspect, the most hardened proponent of the ineffectualness of creative activity, life w/o creative stimulation wd be deathly dull - as such, creative people have far more influence than might be ordinarily recognized. Creativity is often influential just by virtue of being what keeps life interesting!

Alan – You have recently spent a great deal of time and effort memorializing Franz Kamin. Are there other (perhaps under-acknowledged) contemporary creators about whom / about whose work / you feel similarly?

tENT - OI VEH! There are so many! Although I might approach each case differently. I've spent most of the last 6 mnths making a long documentary about Franz called "DEPOT (wherein resides the UNDEAD of Franz Kamin)". [here's an excerpt of sorts:]


This is a major project for me & the most time I've ever invested in exploring the life & work of another person. While making it, I've been thinking about how many other people I'd like to make documentaries about - esp while they're still alive so they can benefit from it!

For decades I've been fantasizing about writing an entire "Encyclopedia of Friends" - an encyclopedia in wch I'd tell stories about all the interesting folks I've known personally or heard tell of. Of course, an obvious problem w/ this is that I have a zillion other projects too.

One of the 1st people I talk about when I mention the proposed encyclopedia is a former roommate/ collaborator of mine named John Sheehan. I usually explain his "balloon fishing" & "slow bowling" & I might mention the large Tesla Coil he built in one of the houses we lived in together. I might also mention the last phone call I rc'vd from him - where he'd tapped into someone else's phone to make the longdistance call to me. While we were on the phone, the person whose phone it was came on & John disconnected them. He's since disappeared from my life. He may be dead or homeless. I doubt that he's prosperous. I've published a tape by him but I've been unable to find him to tell him so.

The problem, for me, about telling people about John is that he was such a pain-in-the-ass when he was in my life that I hesitate to promote him. It's hard to imagine John ever doing anything for me. Then again, John DID make the motorized wings that I used in my "Generic As-Beenism". & he helped w/ computer use in the late 1980s & early 1990s. So I'm wrong: he DID do things for me. He had DEATH written in big block letters on his forearm.

Another person that I'd promote is etta cetera. She's consistently been one of my most visionary friends & she was my main collaborator from 1997 to 2001. In Pittsburgh I see a guy get an "Artist of the Year" honor & I think: him instead of etta? What a farce. This "Artist of the Year" is a completely unoriginal rich drunk who's never done anything for anyone & who lives totally off the wealth of his parents. & his work is pathetically repetitive & based on apparently ill-understood crap he picked up in college. etta, on the other hand, is completely original & 100% dedicated to community. So, yeah, I'd like to see her get more credit - not that she'd give a shit about "Artist of the Year", mind you - she wdn't!

But, again, each person's story is different - & as soon as someone DOES get credit or popularity I usually lose interest in them.

For the last yr I've been trying to promote my archive so that at least part of it will be preserved after I die. I organized a program of movies by friends of mine that're in my collection that screened as part of Pittsburgh Filmmakers' annual "Three Rivers Film Festival". Here're the program notes for that:



Selections from tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE's Movie Archive

"The End" - Jubal Brown, Toronto, Canada - 1998? -2:59
      Jubal's 1st brush w/ notoriety may've been when he vomited in primary colors on museum paintings. Since then, he's been associated w/ the video-making group FAME FAME.

"twenty dollar poem" - Brian Douglas Clemons + g.g.allin, New Hampshire, us@ - Mar 2, 1987 - 7:10
      Brian Clemons was a poet, a junkie, a squatter, & a drifter who once told me that he rode a passenger train for free from Florida to Chicago - when the conductor asked for his ticket he said: "What're you gonna do? Beat me? I'd like that." & the conductor left him alone. Here, g.g.allin reads Brian's poem while he ... beats him.

"Blister Freak Circus' "Cheese Tweezer"" - Skizz P. Cyzyk, Baltimore, us@ - 1992 - 2:11
      Skizz is a musician, a filmmaker, the former organizer of the H.O.M.E. Group Microcinefest, & a guy w/ a sense of humor.

"Creamy Love" - Dick Dale, Adelaide, Australia - 2001 - 6:45
      Dick Dale is a drunk punk comedy horror low-budget videomaker extraordinaire. As w/ so many things presented in this program, you're not likely to see his work in the US very often.

Church of the SubGenius ad - Dobbsfilm, Cleveland?, us@ - early 2000s? - 1:01
      The Church of the SubGenius has been using the subterfuge of bilking the gullible to make them less gullible for 32 yrs. Here we see the Reverend Ivan Stang doing what he does best. I'm a Saint in the church so keep that in mind the next time you think about being anything even slightly less than worshipful to me.

"I Agree with tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE’s Position on the Art Strike" - Karen Eliot [John Berndt], Baltimore, us@ - 1990 - :36
      My position on the Art Strike (1990-1993) was basically that those of us who didn't consider ourselves to be artists in the 1st place couldn't participate in the Strike w/o reinforcing art - which we certainly didn't want to do. Here Karen Eliot expresses solidarity by walking naked in the city in daytime. You figure it out.

"Case #4136: 'Hal'" - Jennifer Fieber, NYC, us@ - 1997? - 12:30
      I've been 'reviving' the use of filmstrips for new purposes since Orgone Cinema got me involved w/ them in 1996. This not-quite-a-filmstrip was contributed to a filmstrip compilation that I was editing & rejected b/c of the "not-quite" aspect.

"The Trinity Session" - Istvan Kantor / Monty Cantsin / Amen?!, Hungary / Toronto, Canada - 2001 - 7:30
      Kantor is the primary founder of neoism. Here the Machine Sex Action Group shows where neoists get all our energy from for our continual overthrow of easy answers to stupid questions.

"Cellar Sinema" - George Kuchar w/ Total Mobile Home Micro Cinema, San Francisco, us@ - 1994 - 12:35
      Rebecca Barten & David Sherman may just deserve the credit for coining the term "microcinema" around 1994. Here, the greatest living film & video maker almost completely perverts any serious documentation about what may've been the 1st of these microcinemas.

"Repression" (unfinished) - L.A. Newsreel, LA, us@ - 1969? - 12:34
      In 1998 or 1999, I curated a 6 part screening series on "The Suppression of Black Radicals in the United States". My seeking rare footage led to my receiving this. I've never screened it before. Those familiar w/ the history of the Black Panthers in L.A. will realize why this might be a very controversial film. One clue: Kwaanza. 'Nuff said.

"Was it Six" - Vesna Miksiç, Yugoslavia / Baltimore, us@ - 1983 - 2:04
      Vesna Miksiç came briefly to Baltimore & taught at U.M.B.C. in 1984 back in the day when Yugoslavia still existed. I have no idea what's happened to her since.

"Dances with Mirrors" - Jona Pelovska, Bulgaria / Montréal, Canada - 2007 - 6:34
Jona is a Bulgarian expatriate living in Canada. She made this movie partially so she could use Michael Pestel's & my soundtrack & then sent it to me. Boy, was I surprised.

"Superb Lyrebird" - Michael Pestel & David Rothenberg, Australia
- 2004 - 3:27

      David Rothenberg wrote a book called Why Do Birds Sing? that came w/ a CD. Michael Pestel, formerly of Pittsburgh, has done many performances w/ birds & referencing extinct birds. David took Michael to Australia just so the 2 could improvise w/ the master imitator, the lyrebird, & included an excerpt on the CD. This includes rare footage of a lyrebird flying.

"Levi's Subvertisement: Button Your Lip" - Jeff Plansker, us@ - 1990 - :34
      I got this from Jeff's collaborator, my friend Owen O'Toole. I think Jeff & Owen tried to make actual commercials together for money. They might've failed at that. This might've been a precursor to such attempts.

"Breeda to Bag Morph" - TV Hospital, Berlin, Germany - 1994 - :35
      I lived in Berlin for 3 months in 1994 so that I could help w/ Herr Stilleto Studio's "TV Hospital" installation/cable-tv-show. One of the things that our collaborator, Axel Jagemann, & I did was make morphs of those around us. Axel also made computer graphics. Here's a morph of Breeda from the performance group The Dead Chickens. She made the bag she's morphing into.

"Vermin Supreme's Real Life Adventures from the Campaign Trail" - us@ - 1996 - 9:25

      Vermin Supreme is the only candidate for supreme dictator of everything-from-your-teeth-to-your-trust-fund. Here we see him hard at work during his 1996 presidential campaign. Everyone in the know knows that the election was fixed so that he couldn't win. & Sam Donaldson is a prime suspect in the conspiracy.
- superficial notes from tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE


Not all of the people above are totally obscure or unappreciated but most of them are probably somewhat underappreciated & I'd like to see some of their work better known - wch isn't to say that I even necessarily currently personally LIKE everyone listed above - but that's somewhat beside the point.

Next friday, April 15, 2011, I've curated another program from my movie archive of the work of friends. It'll be at the Andy Warhol Museum here in Pittsburgh. This program was put together largely to promote the work of Ken Doolittle. [of course, this interview was created over a period of time that's now passed - this particular program has played in 2 different locations & a 3rd program from my archive is 'upcoming' - wch may well also be passed/past by the time YOU read this]

I initially met Ken at my bkstore, "Normal's", in Baltimore in the early 1990s. Then he came to a concert of mine - probably one of the "Official" ones - maybe a trio that Neil Feather, John Berndt, & I did. Ken was living in Baltimore briefly & then returned to Montréal - where I think he might be from. I moved to Canada & Ken & I stayed in touch. He sent me a VHS transfer of his labor-intensive direct-onfilm 16mm called "RE:CYCLE" & a few other works. I was impressed. I probably encouraged Orgone Cinema to present him a yr or 2 later in Pittsburgh after I'd moved (t)here.

Then I lost touch w/ Ken. I'd heard something about his having a rare blood disease. I put "RE:CYCLE" on my online list of "Favorite Movies from other People". 13 or 14 yrs later I was contacted by a guy who's making a documentary about Ken. He emailed me b/c he saw my mention of "RE:CYCLE" online. This guy informed me that Ken's blood disease had caused him to go blind. I THEN learned that Ken had just had an operation to restore his eyesight wch had been somewhat successful. SO, I've started promoting Ken's work partially b/c I like "RE:CYCLE" so much & partially b/c I like Ken & partially b/c Ken's multitalented (he's a musician too) & partially b/c the story about his eyes is such an intense human interest story.

Here's the program for the upcoming event:



Indelible Mark, ACE:
Selections from tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE's Movie Archive:
Direct-on-Film / Optical Printing

- notes from tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE (Dec. 17, 2010)

"Pull & Tear the White Air 2 to 9" - Rebecca Barten - 1992 - 6:08
      Rebecca Barten was the cofounder of "H.O.M.E. Group" (Horse Opera Meanderthal Encounter Group) w/ tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE in Baltimore in 1992. Together they published two 2 hour long compilations of locally produced experimental film work & organized screenings. Skizz Cyzyk went on to run a screening series for many years under the same name. This film uses direct-on-film techniques such as typing on the film & also uses rephotography of her own video.

"Rote Movie" - Dirk DeBruyn - 1994 - 11:31
      Dirk DeBruyn was part of a Melbourne, Australia direct-on-film that collaboratively created work under the name of Direct Action. "Rote Movie" was made during a trip to the US. It involves an impressively intricate array of techniques that include shooting using a filmstrip camera & then using the results as 35mm film.

"RE:CYCLE" - Ken Doolittle - 1992 - 22:30
      Ken Doolittle is a Montréal-based filmmaker whose "RE:CYCLE" is one of the most meticulous & extended direct-on-film films I've ever seen. Largely reworking a found birthing film, the birthing becomes a birthing of filmic possibilities. A few years after Ken made this, he went blind from a rare blood disease. I'm happy to say that he's recently had his sight restored after more than a decade of blindness.

"... For a Moment ... ...Only" - Steve Estes - 1997 - 21:42
      Steve Estes, like perhaps most of the people whose work is in my archives, is entirely too unknown outside his native city - in this case Baltimore. Starting in the 1970s Steve made minimalist video, with original soundtracks, & laborious rotoscope portraits. Rotoscope is a technique where animated drawings are based around a filmed original. In the 1990s Steve returned to grad school & started incorporating computer animation as well. This film is the resultant hybrid of decades of work.

"Manual Labor" - Mark Nugent - 1987 - 16:19
      Mark Nugent was another Montréal-based film & video maker. At one time he was also the film & video curator at Hallwalls in Buffalo. After being in Buffalo, he returned to Montréal where he eventually lived a very reclusive life until his death in 2009. "Manual Labor" is a masterpiece of optical printing using both original & found footage. The latter involves some particularly poignant footage of drug experimentation, possibly LSD, using a volunteer laying in bed tripping surrounded by doctors.

"Dark River" - Mark Nugent - 1992 - 7:18
      Nugent also worked extensively with bands - sometimes touring with them to provide live video projection. In this case, this is another optically printed 16mm film (transferred here to VHS) rather than video but it has a soundtrack made by the post-Psychic TV group Coil. Both of Nugent's works are profoundly evocative of mythic journeys.



So there's another person I'm promoting. The gist of it is that I cd go on & on. It seems that the general public wants & relates to simpletons - the Lowest Common Denominator. & everyone I'm interested in is far more complex. But even that's an oversimplification.

I mentioned etta cetera earlier. etta's much more of a believer in 'the people' than I am. My own personal experience warns me that 'the people' are usually weak & cowardly & will turn on anyone conveniently scapegoated in order to save their ass - even when it's not desperately 'necessary'. As such, I don't believe that people are intrinsically 'good' as many of my fellow anarchists do. My point here is that when I generalize about the general public wanting "simpletons" & about my being interested in people that the general public might reject or have minimal interest in I'm speaking for myself - people like etta wd probably strongly disagree. & I respect her.

Alan - If things were to have an-ending / what would it look like? / what would you be doing?

tENT - Of course, yr question prompts my asking in turn: "What "things"?" Often, when works address this topic, 'the end' is imagined as the death of most or all people - more rarely it's the death of all living things on this planet, more rare still it's the annihilation of the planet - but how often does it go beyond that? Of my most immediate concern is the death of my closest friends & of myself.

But let's imagine further: you ask about "an-ending" - not THE ending, not one-of-many-possible-endings, just an-ending. If we were to discuss "an-ending" that's THE ending, "would it look like" anything? Would I be "doing" anything? It wd be "an-end[ing]" to looking & doing, to me, to you, to this sentence, to this language, to this planet, to this solar system, to the possibility of this solar system, to the galaxy, to the universe, to the multiverse, to ways of measuring itself, to itself - to spin off of what my girlfriend Amy Catanzano often discusses: it'd be not just an end to human scale but to ALL SCALE. PERIOD.

But let's scale it back down again: being a morbid person from time-to-time & being proactive (to use a word perhaps overused in contexts I don't necessarily always want to associate myself w/), I have an ongoing fantasy in wch I learn that I'm to die soon. SO, I get a dr.'s certificate explaining this (duly notarized, etc) & I take this to places where I might not ordinarily be able to partake of what's available there - say an expensive restaurant.

In this example, I go to the restaurant w/ a hidden camera & mic & I show them the certificate & explain that one of my dying wishes is to have a free lavish meal there. I explain this politely but I look as I ordinarily do: eccentrically dressed, perhaps a little dirty - definitely not like the rest of the clientele.

If I'm denied a free meal there (perhaps for myself & a friend), then I make the clandestine documentary footage available to the world as widely as possible - identifying the restaurant. If they graciously give me a free meal I do the same thing. Thus, I have one of my final roles be that of a SECRET SHOPPER FOR TRICKSTER CULTURE.

Another human-scale/my-death fantasy is this: I'm on my death-bed (or death-car-seat or death-sidewalk, etc) & my last word is:
Methionylthreonylthreonylglutaminylarginyltyrosylglutamylserylleucylphenyl
alanylalanylglutaminylleucyllysylglutamylarginyllysycyliso leucylglutamyl
[ . . . ]
valylglutamylasparaginylglutaminylglutaminylserylglutamylasparaginylglutaminyl
glutaminylserylglutamylasparaginylglutaminylglutaminylserxisoleucine.

Obviously, I've picked this as my last word b/c it's the longest word I 'know' of. But, how do I 'know' of it? When I 1st ran across 'the longest word in English' it was in Mrs. Byrne's Dictionary of Unusual, Obscure, and Preposterous Words (1974) & it was the chemical name for tryptophan synthetase A protein that was not nearly as long as this one (a mere 1,913 letters - according to the dictionary). I copied that letter-for-letter for something I wrote for a publication called Edge Wise (1998) edited by etta cetera. Now, online, a "Sarah McCulloch" claims that this 189,819 letter word (her count) is the "full chemical name of the protein Titin". Now it's unclear to me what her source for this is or whether the source is reliable or whether the spelling is correct or whether she's bullshitting (I give her the benefit of the doubt that she's not). I'm not even sure whether a highly educated chemist wd 'know', whether a specialist re Titin wd 'know'. Who's going to proofread this word? Not me. (Not today at least) It wd be a shame to mispronounce my last word or to pronounce the wrong chemical name. How wd I ever live it down? [naturally, I also think that that ONE WORD's being longer than the rest of this interview is fucking hilarious]

Imagine that I cd pronounce this word in its entirety as my last word! That wd be quite an accomplishment - esp for someone in the highly reduced state of functioning that precedes death. Think of how long it wd take just to pronounce the thing! People have been reported to've continued talking briefly after being decapitated by a guillotine. Wd I be able to say this word as my head fell into the basket below the blade?

If I were writing a story about a person trying to trick the grim reaper into a reprieve, it might incorporate this. The person might ask for death to be postponed long enuf for them to correctly say a last word of their own choosing. Then they cd try to read the above. Given that they'd be unlikely to succeed at this, their death cd be indefinitely postponed. Then again, trying to pronounce this word over & over might be such a bore that they'd welcome death in the long run.

But, then, what we're really addressing here is what wd "an-ending" to this inter






tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE self-describes as a:

Mad Scientist / d composer / Sound Thinker / Thought Collector / As Been /
PIN-UP (Postal Interaction Network Underground Participant) /
Headless Deadbeat of the Pup tENT Cult /
booed usician / Low Classicist / H.D.J. (Hard Disc Jockey) /
Psychopathfinder / Jack-Off-Of-All-Trades / criminally sane /
Homonymphonemiac / Practicing PromoTextual /
Air Dresser /
Sprocket Scientist / headitor & earchivist / Explicator /
Sexorcist /
Professional Resister of Character Defamation /
Proponent of Classification-Resistant What-Have-Yous /
tOGGLE nUT cASE /
Princess of Dorkness's Right Hand Man /
Human Attention-ExSpanDex Speculum /
Imp Activist /
SPLEENIUS / Cognitive Dissident

He's written 12 bks (11 published), made 369 movies, has over 150 audio publications, is an early & very active member of the neoist movement & a SAINT in the Church of the SubGenius. More info than anyone is ever likely to read is available here:

http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl

- a website many people report as something they're unable to connect to.
In such a case it's recommended that one try:

http://www.youtube.com/user/onesownthoughts

or:

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1054095.tENTATIVELY_a_cONVENIENCE


Alan Davies was spawned on the Canadian prairies / and lived in various spots across that country through high school. Then / college in Massachusetts / a year in Boulder / and final removal to New York City. He is the author of a bunch of books / including – Name / Candor / Signage / Rave / Active 24 Hours. Two books are forthcoming – Raw War / and Odes & fragments. In addition to poetry / Alan writes essays and book reviews as well as philosophy and critical theory and the like. canadianluddite at yahoo dot com

 
 
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