Monday, June 16, 2008
boredom as concept
Coming of age in the warhol-inspired, electric-kool-aid-acid-test, krapp's last tape, happenings, conceptual/ performance/installation art, open/visual/concrete poetry era, the discussion of "conceptual poetry" taking place on the poetry foundation blog in Kenneth Goldsmith's entries, seems very familiar, even retro, to me, but I know I must be careful not to conflate what happened then with what's happening now, however similar they may seem (how aggravating it is to hear "oh, that's nothing new"!). And besides, so what if the concept of "conceptual poetry" is not new? Maybe it's time to revisit it and enjoy it again. It's got some new elements, has expanded to include more "art-y" and "performance-y" bits (open poetry meets conceptual art) and has overall new energies and confident practitioneers which give it a nice new shiny look and feel. The problem for me is not that it's been done but that I didn't enjoy it the first time around. For one thing, the people who were "into it" were pretentious and full of inflated rhetoric and insubstantial ideas all wrapped up and presented as intellectual daring. I admit I sat through the whole of Warhol's film of a man sleeping* trying to be as avant-garde as my hippie friends, but even then, I had nagging doubts. Why wasn't I seeing a Bergman film, or some other cutting edge film like "Jules and Jim," or "8 1/2" -- something that had substance and meaning or joy and daring, something that I could enjoy and savor or at least not be bored by? Why deliberately subject myself to something boring, especially after the enforced boredom of a classroom? Raising these questions only got the response: "Ah-ha! That's how you're supposed to react. You're supposed to get bored and ask why you're bored. The boredom itself is the experience!." Well. I was already plenty bored, why ask for more? The only way to watch it, really, was to be stoned, the way we all read Ashbery then. Maybe that's the answer re: "conceptual poetry"—-Caution: Do Not Enter Without Drugs.
* Sleep is described thus: "Andy Warhol used a fixed camera position in his 1963 film titled Sleep. The film shows a complete night’s rest over eight hours. Much like the man in the movie, the viewer is tempted to drift off indecisively into unconsciousness. Like in a dream, you don’t have the forethought to know how long you will be in this altered state, and what awaits you after it ends."
Posted by Joan Houlihan at 8:24 AM