Wednesday, April 30, 2008

the poetry of raining...

kaprow great bear pamphlet 1966


black highway painted black
rain washes away

paper men made in bare orchard branches
rain washes away

sheets of writing spread over a field
rain washes away

little gray boats painted along a gutter
rain washes away

naked bodies painted gray
rain washes away

bare trees painted red
rain washes away

allan kaprow, raining, from some recent happenings, something else press, 1966

for the last day of poetry month, as kaprow is evaporating from my head just before i step into a project in philadelphia next week; it seemed fitting to end it all with kaprow's beautiful score for raining. the piece involves a number of activities where personal experiences and intimate artifacts are slowly washed away. while i'm clearly a gatherer of objects (as well as a maker of them), kaprow always manages to re-enforce the idea that it is not the objects themselves that have value, but our experiences with them, and the emotional residue, inspiration, and echoes they leave behind.

the great bear pamphlet series, published by dick higgins something else press, is one of my favorite little series of books, particularly as they are printed in different colors on cheap construction type paper. the titles run from scores by alison knowles, to russolo's art of noise, to some early happening scores of claes oldenburg. the entire set has recently been re-printed in facsimile form, which is nice, but doesn't come close to the feel of the originals - one approaches printing differently when a book sells for 60 - 80 cents, and $150...

kaprow's raining suggests that the content doesn't simply exist, as much as it is made through the activity one goes through to engage with or create it. the experience of buying (and reading) a new copy of an old book is generally to seek information. the experience of discovering a copy of a book printed in its time is an expanded experience that allows touch and smell to have an impact on how one reads the words. as national poetry month ends, please continue to seek needles in haystacks.

p.s. if you want to read the entire series, you can click here

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

the poetry of sleeping while listening...

victrola sleep

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Monday, April 28, 2008

the poetry of a line, the harp and a radish with mustard...

"my composition 1960 #9 consists of a straight line drawn on a piece of paper. it is to be performed and comes with no instructions. the night i met jackson mac low we went down to my apartment and he read some of his poems for us. later, when he was going to go home, he said he'd write out directions to get to his place so we could get come and visit him sometime. he happened to pick up composition 1960 #9 and said "can i write it here?" i said, "no, wait, that's a piece, don't write on that." he said, "whadaya mean a piece? that's just a line".


one of my favorite poets is po chu-i. he lived from 722- 846. this poem is translated by ching ti:

the harp

i lay my harp on the curved table,
sitting there idly, filled only with emotions.
why should i trouble to play?
a breeze will come and sweep the strings.


once i tried lots of mustard on a raw turnip. i liked it better than any beethoven i had ever heard."

la monte young, 1960, TDR magazine.

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Friday, April 25, 2008

the poetry of liquid architecture...

original flyer for fluids, 1967

neatly tucked at the back of the 1967 pasadena museum catalog of allan kaprow's first museum survey is the flyer for fluids. a happening that entails the building of a large judd-like structure with blocks of ice. over three days the structure will be built and melt. today it will begin in several places around los angeles, and at 11 am, it will happen very close to the original site here in pasadena.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

the poetry of the blurring of art and life (or, what's happening...)





some quick snaps from last nights performance of 18/6 in all its blurriness.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

the poetry of a three ring circus (or, one more kaprow post)...

"my next public happening was at the rueben gallery, which was called 18 happenings in six parts. i simply had there the basic image or structure of a three-ring circus. i remember cage was also enthralled with this, because he mentioned some of our traditions of overlapping and signal confusing as traditions like three-ring circuses. three-ring circuses are set up in such a way that people who are at one end of the tent can't see what's going on at the other end. they give you a whole show at both ends, and one in the middle as well - all of them discordant except in terms of the relative starts and stops. you can't really put them together in any kind of meaningful way. they aren't organized that way. so, i set up a three-ring circus space, which there were three rooms... where, of course, you could hear what was going on in all rooms, no matter where you were, but you could only blurrily see what was going on in the room adjacent to you. events would pass from one room to another, as well as overlap in some kind of random way. sounds in the three spaces overlapped to.

cage went to this. a week or so later we discussed it. i saw him on the street, and as my teacher, he said something like "maybe you'd be interested to hear what i thought." i said, "yes." he said, "well, i thought it was a little romantic."

allan kaprow, interview, 1995

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

the poetry of DIY...

allan kaprow 1959, working on 18/6

working on 18/6 april 2008

working on 18/6 april 2008

sunday evening, after a day of production and rehearsal at LACE, i spent about 3 hours and covering a 20 foot by 30 foot plastic tarp with kaprow's text as prop for our performance of 18 happenings in 6 parts. i'd spent a ton of time in the space with others, but sunday night i was working alone, in total silence. as night arrived, it began to feel a bit like the numerous photos i'd seen in the getty's archives of kaprow working on 18/6 - images of him alone, painting, building, writing, etc.

i am constantly complaining to my students about the lack of DIY spirit, particularly in the artworld and this overwhelmingly fabricated moment.

so much of doing a kaprow work, is getting inside of his words as well as the spirit of the piece; and this piece literally had his hands all over it. i think that a strength we didn't see during the doing, is that we have done so much ourselves. this whole project has had much of the spirit of collaboration, and perhaps the handmade quality of things will help it resonate.

after months of research, weeks of production, and days of rehearsal, tonight is our first performance.(i should note the top picture is of a shirtless kaprow, not me... and the bottom two were taken with my phone.)

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Monday, April 21, 2008

the poetry of upside down triangles...




models and drawings of oscar niemeyer's 1955 concept for the caracas museum of modern art.

"our desire was to develop a compact form detaching itself clearly from the landscape and expressing in the purity of its lines the forces of contemporary art, and to offer the visitor the surprise and the emotion resulting a violent contrast between a sealed exterior and an interior flooded with sunlight".

the absolute balance of stunning and awkward in niemeyer's inverted pyramid, reminds me of the utopian 1700's works of etienne-louis boullee. images are from oscar niemeyer, works in progress, 1956.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

the poetry of arrivals...

random Airstrip found online

unused airstrip
tarring cracks in airstrip
painting guidelines on airstrip
cutting grass at airstrip's edge
placing mirrors on airstrip
watching the reflections of planes.

allan kaprow, score for arrivals, 1968

kaprow has been on my mind a lot over the past few months as i have been working on a recreation of his seminal performance 18 happenings in 6 parts in conjunction with the current moca retrospective. i've spent the last few months going through his notes for 18/6 in the getty's archives towards trying to put together a complete score. once in a while - to get outside of the specifics of the piece and more towards his overall intentions, i'll wander into other files, searching for inspirational nuggets.

the score for arrivals, comes from a small poster for the event. when talking about kaprow's work, people seldom mention the poetry that is always present. i'll probably post a bit more of my findings over time...

for anyone in the LA area, the performances of 18/6 are happening at LACE at 8 pm april 22 - 26. reservations are required.

image: random airstrip web search result...

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

the poetry of a frog chorus...

"wang zisun once told me this story.

he was in the capital when he saw a man putting on a performance in the marketplace, with a wooden box divided into twelve sections, each of which contained a crouching frog. whenever he tapped one of the frogs on the head with his little baton, it began to croak. if he was given money, he would start tapping the frog's heads in earnest one after the other, producing an orchestral sound like a set of gong-chimes, every note perfectly pitched and clearly audible."

pu songling (1640 - 1715), strange tales from a chinese studio

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

the visual poetry of creating with space...

9 year old child's project from creating with space

this fantastic sculpture was made by a 9 year old student, and is pictured in the book creating with space and construction by lothar kampmann. it was published in 1971 by the otto maier verlag, ravensburg co., who re-published the eames house of cards toys in the early 70's as well. kampmann's book "explains the fundamental concepts of space and three dimensional structure in clear, easily understandable terms, with many examples drawn from everyday experience; boxes, spheres, stones, trees, beetles, bowls, balls of clay, and more".

the text, while clear and straightforward, deals with a lot of poetic ideas as well as practical examples, and includes numerous examples of kid's activities. one of them is pictured above with the caption: "a structure reaching out into space, inspired by the sight of a tree laden with fruit". this fragile, handmade, temporal structure seen as a fruit tree somehow sends me to the fragility of nick drake's voice singing the phrase, as well as reminding me of the work of one of my favorite artists, al taylor.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

the visual poetry of graphic necessity...

1939 snapshot of radar station chart

another photo from the same album as yesterday's post. this time a photo of a wall chart of staff at a radar station, also dated 1939. i'm assuming someone took the photo because their name is on the sign, but perhaps it was someone, like myself, who simply responded to the form follows function design of the image itself. certainly not an unfamiliar form in the context of my own visual vocabulary... and it is nice that the image looks a bit like a satellite, many years before there was such a thing...

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Monday, April 14, 2008

the visual poetry of orion seen by an amateur astronomer...

1939 snapshot of orion

yesterday, i found this beautiful 8x10 inch photograph in a scrapbook at the flea market. dated 1939, it's a photo of 'the great nebulae of orion', as seen through a telescope. the exposure time was 2 hours and 5 minutes, and while i know it's not true, i like to imagine the photographer staring up at the stars for that exact amount of time, deciding to close the shutter at just the right moment, knowing internally that the image would be just right.

beneath the photo is a quote from something i know not what:
"a single misty star
which is the second in a row of stars
that seem a sword beneath a belt of thee".

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Friday, April 11, 2008

the poetry of letteral notation (with a bubble or dream)


an image of a shaker music score from 1852, using letteral notation, from daniel w. patterson's great little pamphlet: nine shaker spirituals, from 1964.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

the poetry of making and giving...

#5 - street piece (october, 1962 to march 1963)
make something in the street and give it away.

#16 giveaway construction (1963?)
find something in the street and give it away. or find a variety of things, make something of them, and give it away.

alison knowles, great bear pamphlet, 1965

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

the poetry of what this must sound like...

ainu women singing into each other's mouth

"the ainu music is strikingly similar to american indian music, with many songs and dances imitating birds, bears, and other creatures. most of the singing is done to the accompaniment of hand clapping. the most unusual piece in the ainu vocal repertoire is a duet called rekukkara. in this duet one singer carries the tune and the other creates a percussive accompaniment in her throat using the pressure of the incoming air from the person's mouth."

image and text from william p. malm's japanese music and musical instruments, 1959

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Monday, April 07, 2008

the poetry of electro-tubes...

harry bertoia monotype early 1940's

harry bertoia monotype early 1940's

"drawing is a way of learning, a way of finding a truth.
a line commences somewhere, gathers momentum,
spends its energy and comes to an equilibrium
equivalent to a life-cycle.
it could also be said that it establishes its norm
out of balance and dimension.
i draw what i don't know in order to learn something about it.
electro-tubes are extensions as well as magnifications
of our senses.
neither our senses nor the tubes can be faked.
they wouldn't work.
the same physical laws that condition the existence of the tube
are at work in the drawing, if it is to be any good.
there is no place for non constituents.
each and every part is so integrated
that a change by removal or addition would be destructive.
objects can change their form without changing their dimension."

harry bertoia, arts and architecture magazine, 1944
images: two small bertoia monotypes, early 1940's

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the poetry of carpenter's tools as musical instruments

saw duet

some rollicking music for a monday morning from an odd 5" green plastic 78 that had to be had simply because it was titled 'saw duet'. fortunately it did not disappoint, as along with a piano there are two saws playing swanee river. unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your response to the music), the disc is so small my record player would only play the first minute.

mussehl and westphal were the first professional musical saw company, and have been making musical saws since 1921. this was probably a demo disc, from the mid to late 1920's, that might have come with an instrument and probably some kind of 'how to play' book.

click here to listen...

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Friday, April 04, 2008

the typewriter and the mouth...

henri chopin typewrite poem

henri chopin was the supreme poet of both the typewriter and the mouth. you can find a ton of information about him, as well as the publication he founded - revou ou', online (a good place to start is here).

being a sucker for a book with a record inside, i have always loved his little catalog with a 7" published in 1987 by gallerie J&J donguy. between the visual poems and the audible ones, there is a wonderful feeling of connectedness - particularly in that the sound poem, made with mouth and tape, resembles very much a typewriter's frenetic/rhythmic activity. it's a beautiful rhythmic stuttering presence that mimics the visual works.

click here to listen (and if you listen quietly it sounds a bit like trickling water...)

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

poetry in architecture...

gio ponti from 'in praise of architecture'

let us speak in images

the floor is a theorem
the obelisk is an enigma
the fountain is a voice
the stair is a whirlpool
the roof navigates in the sky, its keel up
the vault is a flight
the balcony is a sailboat
the window is a transparency (it is sight, life)
the room is a world

text & drawing by gio ponti, from 'in praise of architecture', 1960

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008


you carry a stone gaze
on four feathers
you carry a stone high
on four leaves
using a polite or the familiar form
on a mountain of cups
refreshes the facade of kisses
waters the symmetrical souls
that drop from their left hands
into their right handed mouths
and gobble one another down without kid gloves
using the polite or the familiar form
on a mountain of cups
gives night to a day
that's dressed to the hilt
and that flies off with posh ears
and snowy shoes
to alight on the head of a star
that imitates the human voice

jean/hans arp, 1938, from arp - collected french writings, 1966.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

national poetry month begins with the mollusk...

since april is national poetry month, the first post of april should, of course, be a poem. i've had francis ponge's selected poems on my nightstand for about a year now, and i still feel i hardly know them. i was happy to discover through the wonderful art of memory blog (where they've been obsessively posting on bresson for over a week now) that ponge knew bresson (!). their works certianly share a kindred spirit of austerity, and a deceptive sense of simplicity.

there are a ton of gems in ponge's oeuvre, but my recent favorite is a short poem called 'the mollusk' (which also reminded me of jean painleve's films, which feel very much in the spirit of much of ponge's writing, particularly the messy edges between science and poetry - knowledge and wonder...). the mollusk has one of my favorite things i've ever read... the idea of a mollusk being like paint without the paint tube.

the mollusk is a being - almost a quality. it doesn't need a
skeleton, just a rampart; something like a paint tube.
nature has abandoned all hope here of shaping plasma. she
merely shows her attachment by carefully sheltering it in a jewel
case, more beautiful inside than out.
so it's not just a gob of spit; but a truly precious reality.
the mollusk is endowed with terrific energy for self - closure.
strictly speaking it's nothing but a muscle, a hinge, a door-closer
and its door.
a door-closer that has secreted the door. two slightly concave
doors constitute its entire dwelling.
the first and last dwelling. it stays on even after it dies.
no getting it out alive.
the slightest cell in the human body clings just as tightly to
language - and vice versa.
but sometimes another being violates the tomb, if it's well-made,
and takes the place of the deceased builder.
as is the case of the hermit crab.

the translations are by c.k. williams. i don't read french (the book is bilingual), but i do believe these english versions are quite beautiful.

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