Literarisches Events (in and around Lawrence KS)

  • PATRICIA LOCKWOOD. Lawrence. Thursday, September 11, 7:00 p.m., Spooner Hall, KU Campus.
  • PATRICIA LOCKWOOD. Lawrence. Friday, September 19, 7:00 p.m. Lawrence Public Library. Sponsored by Raven Bookstore.
  • DENNIS ETZEL, JR. & RACHEL CROSS. Lawrence. Thursday, September 25, 7:00 p.m., Raven Bookstore, 6 E. 7th St.
  • TONY TRIGILIO. Lawrence. Thursday, Oct. 2, 4:00 p.m., English Room, Kansas Union, KU Campus. FREE.
  • CALEB PUCKETT & JUSTIN RUNGE. Lawrence. Thursday, October 16, 7:00 p.m., Raven Bookstore, 6 E. 7th St.
  • BEN LERNER. Kansas City, MO. Thursday, October 23, 7:00 p.m., Epperson Auditorium, Vanderslice Hall on the KCAI campus, 4415 Warwick Blvd.
  • KRISTIN LOCKRIDGE & ROBERT DAY. Lawrence. Thursday, December 4, 7:00 p.m., Raven Bookstore, 6 E. 7th St.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Blog und Zeit

If you are a FB friend of poet Mark Nowak, you are accustomed to seeing reports of mining disasters. Miners are killed every day, in every part of the world, many if not most, while mining coal (like that which is keeping me warm at this very moment).

Mark's book, Coal Mountain Elementary, contains numerous accounts of deadly coal mining accidents (preventable) in China. It also contains an extended account of the Sago Mine disaster, the worst in US history.

At one point, I commented on one of Mark's posts: "This is an extension of your book. It never ends." By which I meant that the book never ends because the subterranean carnage never ends.

Then he commented that the real extension (in time) of the book is his blog, Coal Mountain.

It was only later that this made me think about Jen H's blog, Up From the Ground - which is her MFA thesis, and in which she is theorizing the blog-as-MFA-thesis. She (and I) has been trying to work through how blog-art differs from blog-everything-else.

Obviously, any blog that announces itself as an MFA thesis, and then proceeds to theorize itself as such, has got to be art. So there's that.

But it occurs to me now that another aspect to explore is time. The web log, like other logs, is written with time in mind - and marks time's passage. So do journals and letters. In that sense, these are all reflexive forms that invite reflection on their reflexivity. And the temporality is not just backwards (in the format), it's forward (new posts).

Moreover, there is the question of the frame. Part of a frame is temporal. Once you publish your book, or sell your painting, it's out there. But what happens when you keep writing and publishing the book - daily? Then it becomes like that John Cage piece that's going to take 8,000 years or whatever. The very fact of the work's duration creates its own context by gesturing beyond itself.

So if Jen continues the blog after the MFA defense (successful), and after the thesis is enshrined in the Library (in whatever form that may be), then it has automatically transgressed the art-frame, the parergon (which has already prompted some temporal anxiety from the Library). And by self-consciously doing so, the blog as thesis-extender will behave like those works of conceptual art or pop art that work by playing off of or against the Institutions of Art, or by making an object anomalous by moving it to a new location that is not coded as "art-space." Perhaps any Blog Art (or "bloggart," in Jen's definition) that utilizes the form - as distinct from using the blog as a delivery system for art - is itself de facto conceptual art (at least at this point in time).

But by the same token, a blog's ability to exceed the covers, in addition to being an artistic act, gestures beyond the Institution - towards the Public. In a sense, a book is private - one has to physically have it; it is enclosed between covers. It costs money and a lot of time to make it. The blog opens out to a much wider audience, and invites that audience in. Immediately. Indeed, it might double-back against the Institutions of Art, or open towards activism against non-art institutions - which is what Mark Nowak's blog does, I think.

So maybe the trick is not to turn blogs into art, but rather to blur the line between the two. And I have to think that time, as well as space, is part of that process.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Joe, for the comments on the book, blog--and especially the take on the blog blurring the line instead of becoming yet another "object" of art. And the idea of opening "towards activism against non-art institutions." I can see from the referrers and google searches that bring people to the Coal Mountain blog that people are visiting the site more from mining communities than from art-world & poetry-world spaces. This is also evident in where the book is getting reviewed, i.e., moreso in places like In These Time and Huffington Post than poetry journals... so far.

Also, one tiny correction: Sago, where 12 miners died, was far from the worst in US history: that belongs, as far as I know, to Monongah, West Virginia, Dec 6, 1907, when upwards of 500 miners, including very young child laborers, lost their lives. There's a recent book from West Virginia University Press that analyzes it in detail:

Anyway, thanks again for opening this space for discussing blogs used in these alternate ways.

susan said...

Why, oh Joe H, do you keep insisting on the boundaries between "art" and "public" or "activism" or whatevaz? Isn't the blog a place where the boundary blurs beyond recognition, and makes a point of it (if we're lucky)?

a.k.a. "Joe" said...

Thanks, Mark - yeah, I thought that was wrong about Sago, as soon as I'd written it.

Susan - Am I really insisting on those boundaries? I do think *institutions* create/are boundaries (both discursive and bricks-and-mortar), but I'm not sure that's the same thing. I'll have to re-read my own post . . .

susan said...

Joe--I think I've detected an anxiety over art and activism, or is it only between blog and art, or or or? Maybe I'm seeing it because it's so much a part of my own rabbit/vase wavering. In any case, happy xmas, and look forward to meeting you as yourself in Denver.

Jen said...

You bring up several interesting points. I said in a previous post, though maybe not so clearly, that time is flexible in the blog form. Wordpress allows me to backdate any post, change the time it was there. If I decide in January that I meant to write about digging potatoes in June, I can slip in a new June post or write it -- perhaps a more reflexive mode -- at the time I'm thinking about it. Is this deceptive to the reader? Perhaps. Does it make for a better read when the blog is taken as a whole, looked at through the forward progression of time? Maybe.

Also, the blog is a good medium for me to test that never-ending idea. I don't return to subjects as often as I intended to when I started this project (self-referring within the blog to previous topics, or at least continuing them). Essays were finite: I declared them finished at some point. But the blog does not have to end. Even if book published, it doesn't necessarily end.