Saturday, February 18, 2006

In search of the perfect tag line...

In New York tonight, the city is almost as cold as the Front Range of Colorado was when I left at 7:30 a.m. this morning. The only way to describe it is that MY FACE IS BREAKING in two places at once (Boulder and Manhattan).

But there is always a warmth to NYC that I am lucky enough to have experienced all throughout my adult life. In the old days, when I was an underground writer and ran my own bicycle courier business, the warmth of the people always came out in conversation. The Yids would call it "kibbitzing" - and Woody Allen has been known to turn the comedic version of this "verbal trading" into some of the funniest lines in film history.

Speaking of film, I had dinner tonight with a former V.P. of Marketing at Miramax films. Over organic gourmet cuisine in the East Village, we started to kibbitz. Soon, our discussion turned toward my current film project, tentatively entitled My Autoerotic Muse. I suggested that we try and come up with a "tag line" for the movie and in so doing invited her to intersubjectively jam with me so that we could improvisationally generate some useful metadata to help categorize this very uncategorizeable work of art. The general idea was for us to locate the perfect line that would help us establish an easy to remember meme that would appropriately reflect the very dense and complex philosophical issues the film addresses as it tears the Hollywood film model to shreds. I also made it clear that, in addition to obliterating the Hollywood model, I wanted to side-step the so-called Independent model as well. Rather, I wanted to encapsulate the main tension the film brings to the viewer while watching it, that is, that we are all guilty of being voyeurs, and that some us take more pleasure in it than others.

In exactly five and half minutes, we came up with what my interlocuter referred to as "the perfect tag line." Given that she is one of the top pros in the field, I was both surprised and very thankful. The words actually came out of my own mouth, but I told her that I simply could not have done it without her conversational prodding.

"I know," she said, "that's the way we did it at Miramax too."

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Friday, February 17, 2006


As Publisher of Alt-X, which first made its way on to the Internet as a gopher site in 1993, I play an active role in working with editors, designers, critical theorists, poets, hypertext writers, and the like. The most popular sections on the site are the electronic book review and the Alt-X press ebooks. My sense is that the reason these two sections are the most popular is that they bridge the more scholarly world of critical academic theory and the more spontaneous writing styles we associate with innovative fiction, poetry, and artist poetics. Vilem Flusser once wrote in his meta-essay entitled "Essay":
"No one thinks academically. People just pretend they do. They force themselves to think like that. Academic style is a result of effort (or, if you prefer, of mental discipline), so it is therefore a result of a first thought. The academic is a second thought, because it is a translation of a first thought. It is not spontaneous, but deliberate. The choice between the academic style and my own is therefore a half-choice: I will speak spontaneously, or I will choose 'academicism'."
This is especially interesting when we consider how scholars, critical theorists, visual and performance artists, and creative writers attempt to both locate distributed audiences for their texts as well as get personal and professional recognition for taking risks with the kind of material they are producing.

Standard academic writing and publishing would have you conform your subjectivity to the mold of jargon-ridden, scholarly writing, a somewhat predictable style that manipulates the given subject-matter "at hand" according to scholarly protocol.

But this is where ebr and Alt-X ebooks differ from the norm. We know that academic publishing is in a tailspin and that the economics of niche book publishing no longer makes sense. We also know that the more fluid and oftentimes collaborative electronic space that innovative thinkers and composers are experimenting in presents both academics and artists alike with an opportunity to blur the distinction between publication, performance, designwriting, and exhibition. Two examples that come to mind this second, because I just visited them, include Steve Shaviro's blog and the Future of the Book website which is about to experiment with the distributive writing practice of Ken Wark. Both sites are worth checking out.

The editor of ebr, Joe Tabbi, along with designer Anne Burdick and novelist-theorist Steve Tomasula, put together the double issue of ebr called image+narrative, which we launched at what was probably the best party of ISEA 1997 in Chicago. This double issue features poets, fictioneers, critical theorists, designers, and performance artists who examine texts that make use of their visual form and typography, including the Mexican photo-novella and graphic novels.

But we need to push this further. We need to see more experimental artist ebooks (see what students in my class last Spring created here). More live blog performances. More hard code.

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Thursday, February 16, 2006


"Illusion, Temperament, Succession, Surface, Surprise, Reality, Subjectiveness - these are the threads on the loom of time, these are the lords of life...I know better than to claim any completeness for my picture. I am a fragment, and this is a fragment of me."
Ralph Waldo Emerson, from "Experience"

Subjectivity manipulating the data of subject-matter.

Stylized signature-effects creating social momentum so that an interpersonal network is born.

Hypgnagogic hallucination of the drifting, nomadic net artist traversing cyberpsychogeographical zones.

Processing the residual effects of the lingering metadata in Unrealtime.

Emerson, again: "To fill the hour, - that is happiness; to fill the hour and leave no crevice for a repentance or an approval. We live amid surfaces, and the true art of life is to skate well on them."

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

What's A Meta Phor?

DJ Spooky tells us that "music is always a metaphor. It's an open signifier, an invisible, utterly malleable material."

The best creative artists, writers, and comedians are experts at using metaphors to transport our view of the world to another location, another state of mind or psychogeographical space where we can make connections we had not thought of before, or if we did, are now reimagining with revitalized intensity.

What is the "utterly malleable material" a remixologist might use to hack the scripted reality being spoon-fed to us from the mainstream media? There's so much data out there that one needs to become very talented at operating in various "editing environments" (Spooky's term). But like Duchamp, a leading precursor to my surf-sample-manipulate theory, most remixologists intuitively realize that a lot of their potential source material is readymade and just needs to be selected (sampled) and then manipulated.

For example, the recent incident where the Vice-President of the United States of America shot a man in the face, chest, shoulders, etc. Is that good source material or what? Some might say that the laser-like focus of attention on this seemingly unfortunate incident, a private affair for a too private man given his role in the public arena, will soon pass. But that's highly unlikely given the METAPHOR.

There Is No Blog addresses the metaphor issue and leave it to The Daily Show to turn the metaphor into metadata and then turn the metadata into metafiction.
Jon Stewart: "I'm joined now by our own vice-presidential firearms mishap analyst, Rob Corddry. Rob, obviously a very unfortunate situation. How is the vice president handling it?

Rob Corddry: "Jon, tonight the vice president is standing by his decision to shoot Harry Wittington. According to the best intelligence available, there were quail hidden in the brush. Everyone believed at the time there were quail in the brush.

"And while the quail turned out to be a 78-year-old man, even knowing that today, Mr. Cheney insists he still would have shot Mr. Whittington in the face. He believes the world is a better place for his spreading buckshot throughout the entire region of Mr. Whittington's face."

Jon Stewart: "But why, Rob? If he had known Mr. Whittington was not a bird, why would he still have shot him?"

Rob Corddry: "Jon, in a post-9-11 world, the American people expect their leaders to be decisive. To not have shot his friend in the face would have sent a message to the quail that America is weak."
The video is here.

(An aside: whenever I am in Greece, I like the way they use the word "metaphor" to refer to a literal vehicle or mode of transportation. For example, the local bus is a metaphor. It gets you from here to there.

In addition to helping you transport yourself to other locations, metaphors also help layer the imagination with different strata of potential meaning. Some of this meaning is embedded in our associative thinking. Some of it manifests itself in our associative linking. This is when metaphor becomes experiential tagging.)

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Digital Flux Personas

In the Grad seminar, we are reading and responding to Paul Miller's Rhythm Science. Paul, aka DJ Spooky (aka known as That Subliminal Kid, a phrase taken from a William Burroughs novel), believes in a "cut and paste as you go" collage generation aesthetic that taps into fictional constructions of identity. You could almost say that he is interested in investigating how an artist/writer hyperimprovisationally performs their digital flux persona in network culture.

His version of hyperimprovisation is cybernetic jazz. He says
It's an uncanny situation. The creative act becomes a dispersion of self. Back in the day, it was called alchemy, but in the hyperfluid environment of information culture, we simply call it the mix. Sampling seen in this light? I like to call it cybernetic jazz.
It's also related to Situationist practice and their idea of avant-presence, a space or tense of being that challenges our conventional perceptions of past, present, and future. This avant-presence that circulates throughout my day-to-day life feels both OF its time AND ahead of its time. Just like that phenomenon in the 80s we called "cyberpunk" explored imaginary worlds simultaneously happening in the present as well as the immediate future, this avant-presence enables me to operate in the machinations of the working world and its preset itinerary of bureaucratic functions, even as I imagine myself proactively engaged in a yet to be invented future-tense practice that resists the contemporary situation I am always positioning myself to move beyond.

But there are still other worlds or states of mind where I work or, once I'm there, play, and they tend to lose all of their presets. In these alternative spaces, I become the artist-researcher as pseudo-autobiographical work in progress. This is optimized role-playing, a gig that was MADE for me, where after years of nonstop dress rehearsal, I am now situated as the perfect person to play myself as is, although the pseudo-autobiographical work-in-progress cannot help himself and is always turning the role of the "as is" into the always premiering as if. Role-playing the "as if" allows the transmitting nerve centers of my processual image filters to initialize a performative thrust of narrative momentum that resists the machinations of Time itself so that I may continue distributing my many digital flux personas throughout the networked space of flows. Many times these digital flux personas, which I role-play via email lists, web chat, spontaneous net art creations, VJ performances, mobile blogging, and the like, often overlap and even converge into the one digital flux persona that my audience has tagged with the easy to remember name Mark Amerika. To me, this digital flux persona that goes by the name Mark Amerika intuitively becomes an indeterminate loci of readiness potential that precedes consciousness while transponding the fluid metamorphosis of a radical intersubjectivity to the point where there is no longer an "I" nor a place to effectively call home, there is only a networked SPACE of flows for my creative self to nomadically wander through as I invent my life as an artist at this particular moment in time. As if there could even be a particular moment in time (think about it – it just passed us by – was it ever really there in the first place?).

Or, as Paul says about "DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid"
[C]reating this identity allowed me to spin narratives on several fronts at the same time and produce persona as shareware.

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Monday, February 13, 2006

The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight

The Penguin, played by Burgess Meredith, and his Body Double, played by the Vice President of the United States.

Did someone say "vice"?

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