“I am especially taken by the joy I hear in the written voices of my friends in the archives”

Category: Arc, Residency
Written by: Sophie Mayer on August 1, 2013

An Archive Should Not Mean but Be (Or, Thinking and Feeling in the Stacks: On Not Writing an Essay)

  • with interjections
    • and an Archive of the Now soundtrack

It began with an idea about poetry and archives: MOMA poet laureate Kenneth Goldsmith’s project of printing out the internet

  • which raises the question: what is the internet? Presumably, Goldsmith plans to print out all the web content, not the source code for each page, nor the data analytics mined from the content, nor the energy consumption logs for each server farm. Presumably not gifs or videos or audio. The textual archive of Archive of the Now would be pretty minimal

while everyone talks past the poem
they argue and kiss it
assembles in the lobby shop
thought that too is new you
blow in to sell iPod pouches all the cool

Calvin Bedient weighed in with the assertion that lyric poetry = “strong feeling” & conceptualist poetry = intellection

  • and we all know that dominant EuroWestern culture privileges affect as a mode of being and communicating, right? Or, wait, needs lyric poetry as its Greek urn in which to store and exhibit affect: Poetry, Writing Beauty and Truth (to Power) since 18whatever, So You Don’t Have to Deal With Either. (Which is not to say that Conceptualism has traditionally been welcoming to affect, embodiment, identity and other formations associated with feminist, queer and postcolonial poetics. But then there is I’ll Drown My Book: Conceptual Writing by Women, which wrestles with the rational/objectivist dualism of the conceptual. And it’s brilliant.)

I’m a weeping boy and a centaur caving in…

If I had the money to dip in being a boy,
if I was Anna O., & fallen into autism or
steeped in prelingual glimpses of Lena’s face,
I’d be living system: looped in my own elements.

A system closing talking only to itself.

And lo, the wars were joined with the clashing of blogs and the clamoring to be in the Huffington Post. Susan M. Schultz‘ post, as/at the Tinfish Editor’s Blog, has the smartest rounding-up of the antis, and the best defence: she reads “Conceptualism as affect,” offering “a defense of both at once.” For Schultz, poetry is not a binary system where 0/1 indicate think/feel (as both defenders and detractors of Conceptualism have asserted). Persuasively, she connects Conceptualism’s affect to its frequent delving into (and/or inventing of) the archive. She listens in on “the joy… of [her] friends in the archives”: both friends working on archival material and, implicitly, the friends she meets in archival material.

  • Words for it: the shock of the then, the encounter~frisson~zone of contact with some vanished-but-recorded material and/or psychic reality, future-of-past shock, reality bites
    • Archive joy! In “No Guns, No Durian,” Susan Schultz makes friends with Angelina Jolie via her online diary of her journey through Cambodia: “there are these moments of objectivist precision that are incredibly moving, so I stole her language for this poem.”

In other words – in Yvonne Rainer’s words – “feelings are facts.” Rainer, a founding member of the Judson Dance Theater – Cunningham/Cage-influenced conceptual choreographers – and a feminist film maker, both emplaced herself in the archive of alternative culture, and curated her subjective archive, in the memoir that bears that provocative and useful title (borrowed by Olafur Eliasson and Ma Yansong for an installation in which the spectator is an integral part of the artwork. Rainer’s memoir is roughly co-eval with two other crucial (and affective) feminist interventions into the archive and experimental/alternative/resistant art practices: Ann Cvetkovich’s An Archive of Feelings and Diana Taylor’s The Archive and the Repertoire, which are concerned with film and theatre respectively. The archival poetics equivalent awaits…