As promised, but later than anticipated, I wanted to submit a few thoughts - almost a review - of Brian Kim Stefans’ Fashionable Noise. I say almost because I am not so interested in covering the last three sections, “Proverbs of Hell (Dos and Donts [sic]),”Whan Lilacs Laist in the Duir: notes on new poetrie,” and “A Poem of Attitudes.” It’s not that I don’t find these sections interesting, but that I wanted to say a few things about his theoretical position towards new media poetry/ poetics. Brian is a sharp and brilliant writer/ web worker. We are all familiar with his “Dreamlife of Letters” - and may have even been amused by his NYT detournements (I gave a paper on these at the Collage Conference here at UIowa last March, but lost interest in these pieces as I was writing the paper) - and may just know him as a web presence. My criticism of Brian’s work it hasn’t yet hit a ‘groove,’ so to speak - it hasn’t become something he has been able to run with. I recall him saying or writing at some point that he thought the NYT pieces were the best or most successful (which one?) of his works. While they were good at the time, they are, only two to three years later, interesting historical documents. Situationist work is not designed to last or be catalogued. It could be kept, I suppose; one could claim it as ‘situationist influenced’ and regard the irony as something valuable in the work itself. Now, had the situationist-style actions continued and developed into some other form of ‘culture jamming,’ then there would be less room for my little criticism. In a general sense, the shortcomings of Fashionable Noise are a reflection of a collection of works not-quite-followed-through. The initial conversation with Darren Wershler-Henry is entertaining and touches on themes and issues that the contemporary poetics tend to skate around. For example, being architecturally inclined, I was most interested in their conversation on architectural poetics (I will come back to this). The conversation ends up, however, being somewhat of a gloss over much and insight into little. And then even ‘Stops and Rebels’ - with its brilliant twist on Eliot etc. by featuring footnotes as both the main and most ‘useful’ part of the main text - usefully critiques the HTML optimism of the mid-90’s and the continuing optimism in what are trivial feats (e.g. personalized webpages etc) - but ends up with a fuzzy notion of ‘cyberpoet’ and ‘cyberpoetry’ and mechanical production of texts. Now, I want to qualify what I’ve just said. Fashionable Noise does present a number of interesting and important ideas/ arguments for anyone concerned about technology and its relationship to poetry/writing. (stop here for today)


Anonymous said...

Nice Blog.
Although Art and Music arguably have intrinsic value, sitationist thought has none, other than it's translation into revoluttionary praxis. If you doubt this, please read again the situationist international's "Theses on the Situationist International and its Time" by Guy Debord & Gianfranco Sanguinetti from 1972. Here are some quotes which I hope will dispel any doubt: „Modern revolutionary theory, which has to make a critique of life as a whole, can only be degraded into a total ideology among those who want to take it up without knowing how to practice it... This theory only has an effective existence through its practical victory... The theory of the revolution is judged by the sole criterion that its knowing must become a power.“

Cheers, Treehaus

ben said...

Thanks. Though I'm not really sure where this post leaves the impression to the contrary - at least on a theoretical level. My criticism of Stefans' proto-Situationist work - esp. the NYT 'detournemonts' - is that I believe that he valued them as works... Still, Situationist thought was a failure in the sense that, although it was not supposed to have 'intrensic value' as you say, it couldn't avoid being valued - or degraded, in Debord's words.

adrienneatiowa said...

holy smokes, this is a great blog, ben! thanks for stopping by and even linking me to your site! and you have anarchist news up too! aren't you fabulous?

love the f*$% the wto posts especially. will have to read through old posts.