Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Unprepared Paper

In my first post this year I said of Josef Albers that "his colour studies depended on the arrangement of colour samples that were not prepared (indeed, unprepared) for the study of colour interactions. Ordinary colour." Albers believed that not only should we not use paints in the study of colour, we should not use "prepared paper sets representing specific color systems." Rather, we should arrange colour samples gathered in the working environment of colour: "waste strips found at printers and bookbinders; collections of samples of packing papers, of wrapping and bag papers, of cover and decoration papers . . . cutouts from magazines, from advertisements and illustrations, from posters, wallpapers, paint samples, and from catalogues . . ."

The analogue of this approach in poetry is called Flarf. Instead of using a prepared lexicon of poetic diction, the poet collects waste strips and cutouts from the working environment of emotion and arranges them in "interaction studies". Now, Tony and I have been disagreeing about whether the "poetic effect" (Kitasono's "vague" term) of Flarf depends on what is true (or even imagined) of the sources (often found by Googling key words). If my analogy here holds, then the source of the text that goes into a work of flarf ought stand in the same relation to the poetic effect as the colour effects of a patch of Armani grey stands to the suit advertised in the source from which it was cut. That is, none. The suit (the picture of it) was "unprepared" for the arrangement that its colour came to participate in.

Flarf is made of emotional materials that are unprepared for poetry.

Borrowing from Kitasono again, I want to say that the undeveloped aesthetic feeling of a line like "I could only kill in self defense," can contribute to a larger poetic effect like that of "I Am Not the Pilot", regardless of the purpose for which those words were originally assembled, just as the colour of the suit can be extricated from the selling of the suit by carefully cutting out a section of the ad.

I'd still say that there is an important "critical" effect to be derived from discovering the sources (just as something may be learned from deconstructing one of Albers' interaction studies into its source material and thereby connecting a laboratory effect to a "real world" situation.) But the poetic effect of the arrangement of brute (flarfy) feelings on the page precedes this critical exercise and does not depend on it.

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