4.28.2014

EPI-IMPROPER: Remixing Bruce Andrews Via Twitter


On April 1, the APG participated in the Bruce Andrews 25-Hour Twitter Project, an interactive performance piece that stretched across an entire day and included as many participants and media formats as America's favorite social media platform could support. Described by its curator, Maria Chavez, as a "sculptural documentation" and a "real-time archive of Bruce Andrews' current poetic writing and the responses it elicits in real time", the enterprise was irresistible to us for many reasons. Many of us have been either fans or even full-fledged students of Andrews' work for many years, and of course we found ourselves more than simpatico with the intermedial thrust of the piece, its radical openness, and its emphasis on collaboration and group composition. Also, April 1 seemed like a fittingly foolish day for the APG to release its first Twitter pigeon, so there ya go.

The project's Twitter account quickly became a site of reflection, refashioning, remixing and re-imagining of Bruce's 300-part poem "Improper" as its staccato bursts of 140-characters-or-less passed through various hands. Tweets were usually accompanied with links to the project's SoundCloud page where you could hear Andrews read the material. Once we were underway, I mainly just contented myself with riffing on Bruce's tweets as I reposted them, responding to, say, Andrews' "one beast cross-tool in full queer. Reading it made us all less incompetent" with "Reading it made us all less incompetent. Midwife as voyeur to beast? Apes in parallel, or stereo-perp a hot mess", etc. Or else I dropped slaphappy one-liners that echoed bits of Bruce like "my swastika nacho drips with porn" as I got drenched in the wave of socio-politically pointed mutations-of-utterance that "Improper" seemed design to release. Lots of other folks did similarly snarky, off-the-cuff things, and many were cogent and artful, but it was especially cool when a few participants got a little more ambitious with the pictures they posted and the recordings they uploaded. Along those lines, there was a widespread and enthusiastic reaction to the manner in which my fellow apgista James Sanders chose to respond.


Iteration #9 of the "Epiimproper" series
The "Epiimproper" poems are definitely striking as images or word-sculptures in their own right, but it's worth unpacking what else is in play with them. The prefix "epi" of "epiimproper" carries the multiple senses (from the Greek) of on, upon, after, towards, against, etc., but also, as my cheap student lexicon tells me, that of accumulation, extension, even of monetary interest. Anyone who's had even a passing acquaintance with James' poetry will know that he often works with the lattice--basically, these "word-webs" that defy traditional poetic lineation and can generate an infinite number of free-flowing,open-ended readings as you follow their lines--but the epi aspect is fairly new to his work. I first became familiar with it at a reading the APG did in Atlanta a few years ago. Calling the text as an "epiphyte" (literally, a plant that grows upon another plant), James handed me a page like this and told me to listen, as he read from another text, for the words in the gray areas and to treat them like "cue words" that would launch my own reading around the lattice, effectively letting my reading/performance grow upon, from, against (etc.) his own. This was fun to do, incidentally, while sitting in the audience at a fairly polite poetry reading sited in an art gallery. The attendees who didn't know we collaborated (or weren't hip to John Cage) just figured I was some asshole out to interrupt James' reading.


Iteration #10 of "Epiimproper"
















So, as the Andrews Twitter project gained momentum through the day, James devised a series--eighteen, by the project's end--of these iterative epi-lattices that spun out from the sporadic Tweets of Bruce's "Improper." Andrews' words hover in the gray or black clouds; James' proceed from these to congeal as lattices over the white space. If you run their images in sequence as a photo-slideshow, as I've done, you get a sense of the series' evolution over the 25-hour period that can often seem like a time-lapse view of the action in some kind of dynamically verbal petri dish. Words and phrases assemble themselves together like the proto-organs of a microbe. They cohere or spin out, hold complementary or oppositely charged phonemic valences. New parts emerge and protrude productively while others drop off and die, become erased. Not to get too carried away here waxing on about the properties and potential of the lattice...we've already done so elsewhere.

In any case, what's motivated this post--just as much as our post-game enthusiasm and gratitude about getting to play productively with Bruce and his fellow travelers--has been the opportunity to make public some of the recordings the group has done in bringing the "Epiimproper" series from the mute page into vocal performance. I've provided several recordings below, paired with the pages of James' work they bring into sonic action. The ones I did are fairly straight-ahead, hewing pretty closely to the formal line of the epiphyte since I generally wait for Andrews' voice (lifted from SoundCloud) to "activate" my reading and send me spinning around the lattice. But they're conservative next to Austin-area performance artist/poet and APG alumnus Jeff Dahlgren's takes on the material, which incorporate a lot of digital effects and get especially awesome when other Austin-based performers sit in with him. I don't know who these other guys are, but, hey, that's what blog comments are for, I guess. Anyway, it's been absolutely fun remixing Bruce with this crew. Hope you enjoy listening!


Epiimproper #1


Epiimproper #2


Epiimproper #3


Epiimproper #5
Epiimproper # 8

Epiimproper #11


Epiimproper #12


Epiimproper #13

Epiimproper #17


Epiimproper #18

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