The 100th piece in an ongoing series of visual transcriptions of every page of Finnegans Wake – a rendering of Joyce’s book of the dark‬. Each piece is created – graphite on paper – using an artistic technique called “blind contour” whereby the artist looks at the subject matter and NOT at the page he is creating (thus emphasizing hand-eye coordination and dedicated observation); blind-contour drawings often produce off-kilter depictions as an exercise in artistic weight-training. These readings/writings echo Jame Joyce’s infamous blackboards and over-sized drafts during the creation of Finnegans Wake — my texts are records of readings. (100 down, 390 to go…)IMG_3605IMG_3608

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STEM Radio Hour Episode 2: “Art and the Technology of Meaning” is now online.

The poetry of Derek Beaulieu, an eminent poet and visual artist who is also the inaugural Poet Laureate of the City of Calgary (2014 – 2016), challenges what we know about how we know and learn. In this riveting episode, Derek sits down in our lab, creates a new work of non-representational visual poetry and discusses with Alycia (an undergrad student, co-host and co-producer of our show) and me what his work can tell us about technology and meaning.

 

In 1949 John Cage – polymath composer, poet, theorist and visual artist – after archival research, published Erik Satie’s 1893 composition Vexations. Unpublished in Satie’s own lifetime, Vexations would quickly become what the New York Times would later call “a dangerous and evil piano piece.”

Satie’s Vexations, is a score of only a single page, yet it contains, at the top of the page, a short note, which, translated into English, reads “In order to play the theme 840 times in succession, it would be advisable to prepare oneself beforehand, and in the deepest silence, by serious immobilities.”

In 1963 Cage organized a marathon performance – lasting 18 hours and 40 minutes and performed by a group of 10 performers (including David Tudor, Christian Wolff and John Cale of the Velvet Underground), in shifts. He later believed that Vexations complemented his own efforts in repetition, silence and boredom: “In Zen they say: If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, try it for eight, sixteen, thirty-two, and so on. Eventually one discovers that it’s not boring at all but very interesting.”

For the last year I have been engaging in a visual translation of Satie’s Vexations. Echoing the marathon performance of 10 musicians, each performing 84 iterations of the score, I will use 10 different photocopiers copying the 1-page score repeatedly, a copy of a copy of a copy, 84 copies per machine. The copies are then scanned and published through an online print-on-demand publisher in editions of 26 books. When completed I will have created / written 840 iterations of Satie’s score, each piece reflecting the idiosyncrasies of each machine’s “performance,” the interpretations and disintegrations as Satie’s score slides, deforms, degrades and fades into the graphic equivalent of “furniture music”; an ambient visual poetic. As each photocopier “reads” and “performs” the piece, the performance reflects the personality of the performer, the “physical” and “mental” strain of the marathon expressed in physical degradation.

Each volume uses a different photocopier to degenerate Satie’s score – with startlingly unique results. Taken as a 10-book suite, the completed project will present 840 variations (84 variations per book over 10 books). The books are each produced in a limited edition of 26 copies (176 pages $26 + shipping, each)

The editions of Vexations so far:

Vexations Book 1Lexmark XM9155.

Vexations Book 2: Xerox Workcentre 5755.

Vexations Book 3: Lexmark XM5163.

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Jonathan Ball reviews a, A novel in The Winnipeg Free Press:

Derek Beaulieu’s a, A Novel (Jean Boite Editions, 488 pages, $42) erases the text of Andy Warhol’s important conceptual novel, a, to leave only — and thus highlight instead — its punctuation and sound effects. These were the additions of the anonymous female transcribers who were arguably the novel’s true creators, and Beaulieu’s project constitutes something of a feminist rewriting and recuperation of the Warhol work. Beaulieu is both a conceptual writer and a visual poet, and this erasure text — mostly waves of punctuation that is itself punctuated with oddly banal-but-poetic phrases (for example, out of nowhere we find “60-second pause and the sound of washing feet”) — blends his two practices beautifully. Although many conceptual writers (such as Kenneth Goldsmith) say you don’t actually need to read conceptual writing, they are wrong. Beaulieu’s text nicely displays why. Startling literary effects that should not be possible — in this case, a strange sort of suspense — are created through unlikely methods and in a manner that speaks to literature’s true methods and value. It’s Beaulieu’s best work and a necessary addition to any library of experimental art.

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Limited edition of 25 poems, all unique, hand titled and signed by Bernar Venet,
printed on paper Etching Rag 310g, by Ateliers du Regard in Paris, July 2017

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Limited edition of 10 poems, all unique, numbered and signed by Derek Beaulieu, 
printed on paper Etching Rag 310g, by Ateliers du Regard in Paris, July 2017

Nancy Miller interviews me about a, A Novel in the streets of Copenhagen . . .

 

2017 is the 20th anniversary of my initial forays into publishing under the housepress imprimatur (switched to no press in 2005) — and I would like to offer thanks and give back to the authors involved in these press over the years.

Most of those editions are long out of print, having moved in to personal collections and archives and are rare collectors items.

So i have an offer: if you were published by housepress or no press, and are interested,  scan your edition, create a PDF and email it to me  — and I will host downloadable PDFs as links on the presses’ sites.

This will return that work to circulation, allow for increased study and readership, and might be a fun way of recollecting how small pieces of paper, thread and the occasional staple, attempted to build a conversation.

 

 

 

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