Thursday, December 05, 2013


The title of this post makes no sense to me, but let's go with it anyway. Paris, as in the capital of France where I just spent a month serving as the international research chair at the University of Paris 8, and perestroika which, when taken literally, means restructuring. Now that I've set myself up with this term, what could I possibly mean by mashing up my recent experiences in Paris with the idea of restructuring?

Was I restructuring my practice/theory portfolio so that it met my projected research goals as both artist and writer-theorist?

Perhaps it relates more to how I have been restructuring the various energies I am able to burn while simultaneously role-playing an experimental performance maker, conceptual artist/writer, and innovative practice-based researcher in the messy borderland of higher education.

Or maybe, just maybe, I am referring once again to the way I am constantly restructuring my relationship to America, that long lost dream of what could have been if only ...

My time in Paris was very productive. I finished Locus Solus. For those who don't know (and why would you?), next year is the 100th year anniversary marking the original publication of Raymond Roussel's Locus Solus. In February of this year, while working on another art project remixing Duchamp's Large Glass, I came across an interview with Duchamp where he was asked what most influenced him while making this historically significant work and he said, "Roussel showed me the way."

So I immediately started searching online for a freely downloadable e-book of Roussel's work in English translation and could not find anything. There was one novel, Locus Solus, available in French. I do not read or understand French, let alone Roussel's version of it, but I decided to get a feel for Locus Solus by auto-translating it with a set of mediocre online translation programs.

Needless to say, given Roussel's procedural composition style, which he articulated in the posthumously published How I Wrote Certain of My Books, the auto-translation was full of glitches and illegible strands of narrative thought. The only way to develop some narrative sense out of the mangled text that was given to me by the mediocre online translation programs was to creatively remix it through my own experiential filters. This is when Roussel's Locus Solus started becoming a totally unexpected mash-up of auto-translation and autobiography.

After a few hours, and then days, of auto-translating / remixing the original French version, I found myself becoming addicted to what I now perceived to be a kind of exhilarating, performance art project. As with other performance art works I have created in the past, I was particularly excited by the arbitrary set of parameters the project had set up for me. The idea that I would be forcing myself to endure the writingprocessing as a kind of body-brain-apparatus achievement kept me bound to The Network as a disciplinarian procedural aesthetic (as is often the case nowadays, I would be unable to work on the project unless I had a good Internet connection). I quickly decided that I did not want to buy and read any of the rare print books that had already attempted to translate Roussel into English. The challenge I had set myself up with was now very clear and four months after my initial "cut and paste" of the opening line into one of the online translation programs, and with no knowledge of what the original could possibly mean, I had successfully finished auto-translating / remixing the mangled French version into

Locus Solus (An Inappropriate Translation Composed in a 21st Century Manner)

now composed of two parts: part one, Locus Solus, which is the narrative remix, and part two, How I Rewrote One of His Books, a series of "Afterthoughts as Endnotes" documenting the performance.

My goal is to get this book out some time next year in conjunction with the 100-year anniversary of its initial publication. A limited edition artist book seems best, although I am open to suggestions, and I can help fund the production and design process. I am especially interested in working with an experimental yet reputable art book publisher who can move fast when the conditions require it.

In my next post, I hope to include some reflections on and photos from my performance at the Théâtre du Conservatoire National Supérieur d’Art Dramatique.


Keywords: Raymond Roussel, Locus Solus, Mark Amerika, remix, Paris, University of Paris 8, glitch, translation