On Saturday night I read at Volatile Dispersal, a festival of art writing held at the Whitechapel Gallery. The event proved so crowded and popular that it was hard to take very much in. I found this ironic because after I’d used my FaceBook account to remind people about the event (I list all the public events I’m doing initially on my homepage), among the comments I garnered were the following:
“I like the idea of ‘art writing’; its the best phrase I’ve ever come across (Barry Watten?) to describe the efforts of those of us who spend anywhere between 5 to 50 to 75 hours on one text, which is little more than a page, only to have said text become tucked away appropriately in a ‘slim volume’ which no one in their right mind will pay 10 dollars for when all is said and done… go boy!” Volker Nix.
And: “Yeah Volker, writing that nobody will read, not even if you put it online for free…I used to see that as being somehow radical (and I still kind of do)…but now I think the only real reason for engaging in these practices is simply because you enjoy it (is that somehow radical?)” Robert Chrysler.
There were various events going on in different parts of the Whitechapel Gallery, I was programmed to read in a small upstairs space alongside a whole host of other ‘art writers’, and this segment was curated by Francesco Pedraglio. Since I was on last, I was more focused on getting into the mood for my reading than paying attention to what other people were doing. That said, it is decidedly amusing that some of those engaged in ‘art writing’ are clearly unaware of experimental poetry by the likes of Bob Cobbing, so they are able to cover old ground as if it is fresh (and I guess it is for them, if not me).
What I found particularly curious about the event was that a number of people were participating in Volatile Dispersal who I knew but I managed not to meet on the night. I was able to hear Sally O’Reilly read because there was a speaker system relaying the sound from the room in which I also performed into the adjacent bar – but the event was so packed that I was unable to get into this small gallery for the majority of sessions before mine. I looked out for Sally afterwards but it was so busy it was easy to miss people, and I didn’t ‘see’ O’Reilly at all that night. Others advertised as being present who I failed to clock at all included Babak Ghazi (whose downstairs event clashed with mine) and Laura Oldfield Ford. Yet more, such as Mike Sperlinger, I spotted across crowded rooms – but in most cases was unable to attract their attention before they disappeared.
Among those I did manage to speak to were Crow, Bridget Penney, Bridget Lowe, Katrina Palmer, Maitreyi Maheshwari, Gavin Everall, Jane Rollo, Nick Thurston, Anthony Isles, Jonathan Allen, Benedict Seymour, Maria Fusco, James Brook, Chris Horrocks, Jeremy Ackerman and Hilary Koob-Sassen. I also had a reasonably extended conversation with Rob La Frenais about Toshiba ripping off Simon Faithfull in their current ad campaign. Nothing wrong with plagiarism of course, but Toshiba and the ad agency they used initially claimed this blatant steal demonstrated the commitment of both parties to innovation. Ho ho! La Frenais was telling me corporations can’t get away with this kind of rip-off in the world of Web 2.0 because tweets, blogs and comments on sites like YouTube and Facebook have spread the story around the world and forced Toshiba to backtrack – so they’ve apparently paid Simon Faithfull some wedge to say nothing, and are now claiming the ‘innovation’ was not launching a chair into space using weather balloons (as Faithfull had five years before them) but in using this for an ad! Doh! If that’s Toshiba’s idea of ‘innovation’ then I think I’ll stick to using consumer electronics made by Apple, Asus, Panasonic and Sony (among others) and avoid Toshiba (unless they send me some nice freebies). And BTW, why so few mentions of The Association of Autonomous Astronauts in regard to all this too?
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – www.stewarthomesociety.org – you know it makes (no) sense!