visionism

1) a friend once called me an iconoclast. could be. as far as I can tell I don't practice group aesthetics. I'm not a projectivist, objectivist, minimalist, modernist, symbolist, abstract expressionist, or futurist--I'm not against dada so I can't be a dadaist. though all the fuzzy isms tickle my writing. I certainly don't ride with the language gang but even their poetics can be found tweaking the odd ellipsis. I've composed a few visual poems though that's probably it for me. not gorging myself on any one of these methods while at the same time tasting them all--well, isn't that how new things happen? new incorporations in the cloud bank? recombinant dna (dramatic new aesthetic)

2) no matter how we slice and dice it, writing is a realization of self, both in the sense of discovery and production (as in "when I sobered up I realized I had done my best friend's wife," and "our dream of a transgender beauty pageant was finally realized). I include speech within the field of writing since spoken word, in order to make conversational sense, must live by the rules. the ostensible difference between tongue and mark is based on the most superficial characteristics, such as the sound that is public vs. the sound in one's head. any utterance that violates grammatical structures (that no doubt evolve across time) must be decoded via reference to the unimpaired system. if this be impossible, if the utterance falls that far afield, then it will fail to make meaning. in such a case it is possible we hear the growl of the animal

but even this growl does not entirely escape. it is captured by the system as no meaning, which is to say it inevitably means something. identification as outside the system represents a meaningful assignment, producing yet another card carrying member. only nothing falls without the boundaries of language, and not even that

we may acknowledge a free existence of the animal beyond knowledge. what? you see the problem, the way language folds back on itself. miles of intersections but no road out of town. we have our maps, we spin our wheels in the mud, looking for signs

3) let's call a new comprehension, a new point of view, visionism. as the term suggests the emphasis is on seeing--seeing as all of its implications: the visual, the visionary, the visceral when conceptualized by language, the language as a painterly enterprise where arrangement on the page matters, the landscaping of words, seeing as comprehension, the potent image, seeing beneath (or between) the surface and signification of words, staring down what about us frightens us, the exposition of all we deny/conceal/domesticate, the desire/absence that drives language, its grammar, its need to spin for us a story, a myth, a vision, to bolt the door against the unlettered teeth by imaging the terror, to weave a scar upon the open wound of desire, the vision scar, the world scar, the self scar--seeing--the language scar

the visionist artist does not restrict himself to a single method or style. to see what surges by us, for us, requires a democratic pallet, a vaudeville of vibrant gateways. the one trick pony is a poor man's circus act. we want art, not wallpaper. conventional minds live in track housing. some who think themselves au courant have quit the experiment. they pioneer a fertile land, then plant endless rows of rhubarb. we must never forget that seeing is also not seeing. mankind's myth making is also his blindness, the impossible task of seeing beyond his materials. it is up to the visionist to bring the dark out of the light

what, then, falls without the circumference of visionism? conventional structures-- narrative, lyrical--may or may not qualify. being conventional, they are likely to meet familiar expectations, to comfort rather than disturb. as a rule the visionist work of art requires some sense of deviance--in form qua content. still, a rule is proven by its exceptions--the occasional conformity may succeed on the choice of words alone. with regard to that choice, any poem that sacrifices a strong and distinct voice, or series of voices, for the sake of radical structural experimentation is not likely to fall within visionism's purview. does the eshewing of voice qualify a bad poem? not necessarily. we must accept a myriad of valuable approaches. there are many avenues in the city

visionism is not at all reserved for poetry. music and the visual arts may likewise qualify. beethoven was a visionist artist. stravinsky was a visionist artist. picasso was a visionist artist. piet mondrian's "composition with red, blue, and yellow" is not visionist art. suprematism, constructivism are not visionist art. that which accentuates the cerebral factor at the expense of the emotional does not meet criteria. it proposes a false division, though such abstractions can focus attention in an interesting way. visionism embraces the experimental, combining useful new formulations into even newer ones, avoiding those hostile to the intellect, or the emotions, or--as can be the case with amateurs--both. the fact of intertextuality (that each seemingly individualized work carries the traces of other, often radically different, texts) insists on the commingling of forms. one lexicon should not oppress another. the paintings of francis bacon--visionist art. in our present time serrano is a visionist artist

visionist art may be hard or soft. but it can not escape certain political ramifications- there is, quite obviously, strong resistance to the totalitarian impulse. this, however, does not deny the fact that many who are so twisted have produced brilliant visionist art (eliot and pound, as examples). visionism may seem to invite, and escape, historicity in that it promotes inclusiveness. both ancient and avant garde in its conception, it is nevertheless not a club, a school, a movement. while such things come and go, visionism remains. one may argue that visionism is most concerned with those aspects of experimentation that address the breadth of human experience. hieronymus bosch was a visionist, as was john lennon. of those loosely gathered under the rubric "language poetry," hannah wiener was always a visionist artist--andrews is usually not

we should not confuse visionism with "visual poetry" (an often fascinating device fashionable in contemporary avant garde circles). some examples may qualify, some not. visionism, as I have insisted, will not turn its back to any methodology so long as the product encompasses, or suggests, a wide spectrum of seeing. given the requirements, visionist art is often dark, even in its humor. to accept the myth making power of language (which informs all of the arts), to know that acceptance itself is a linguistic event, to aspire to see everything that language is and does for us, as us, is to approach the vacant center, to see the nothing of language, to kiss the black heart of humanity

for those who complain that some well worn aesthetic formulations have been co-opted by capitalism, or communism, or fascism--that the human self in its conception is somehow responsible for the oppression of peoples and must be devalued or reconditioned--however accurate their perceptions, however sincere their aims--they are misguided. they cannot control the baseline vector of words. only language is in charge, and it will evolve at its own pace. whatever the stories, they are the products of language, not simply our impositions upon it. we cannot decide a grammar, a syntax--it is always decided for us, as us. it is always the (hated?) self that claws at its own cage, and is the cage. as our own incarceration we may imagine freedom, but the ever present bars ensure that what we imagine is idealized. utopias are stories for children

4) the current scene, at least insofar as poetry insinuates itself, is dominated by cliques. we have the tyranny of the movement, one artistic gang pitted against another--bastard children of futurisms, symbolisms, surrealisms, dada and anti-dada. by definition the poet mob is exclusionary. now and then a green card is issued, but ultimately citizenship is denied, the borders closed. when such movements achieve something like critical mass, i.e., when their numbers grow to muscular proportions, an impact is most certainly felt. but this is an exercise in power, and not art. the visionist artist eschews the assembly line mentality, despite the often valuable, more often perfunctory, work that issues from the machine. the visionist artist is unique, his work unlike the clonings of others who do not stand on their own, who fear temptation in the desert. he takes what is available--a broad interrogation of philosophical positionings, referential and non-referential gestures, the myriad collisions of form/content--and cooks up a storm. he proffers a culture's lightning force--its thunder in time--its hurricane voice for the ages

certainly modernism offered a plethora of individual styles. eliot was an original. pound was an original. cummings, stein, williams, stevens--all originals. of the members of the new york group--pollock, de kooning, rivers, ashbery, o'hara, schuyler, koch, guest-- each prospered in the belly of an individual vision. what joined them together was more a matter of friendship and distaste for dusty academic precepts, than it was a shared methodology. artistic movements in which a single tool is pounded into the ground generally survive as footnotes. the visionist rises out of the morass, and will scatter his apostles

5) there's this I'd like to do--I'd like to pull up something, some lost thing that lives in the jungle of language, and I'd like to do it without sacrificing the contours of the city where it moves us to fear and pleasure. for me "experimental" involves excavation- digging out what lurks in the crevices, the shape shifting image suddenly opening a vein. of course the deviant shores up the mainstream that in turn opens a trail for what goes missing. alternative art depends on its enemy and would vaporize without one, much like conservative ideologues and communists. we all wish to murder the debt, but that would be suicide

the concept of beauty, though always around, has lately taken a beating. symbolism, surrealism, the decadent arts--victims of their own imprecisions, or so we've been told. romance is dead! science is god! but of course science is romance, another chapter in the myth making genius of language. we have only the impressions of words, on blank pages, or creasing the air. each word a husk until it communes with others, a circulatory system of veins and arteries, and it is always in communion-- relating, shifting--and it is always in decay, and bone dry. I have just written myth, no less precise than medicine. I have just written tragedy. to conceal the tragic is to deny beauty--like the worship of acquisition, no doubt an evasive maneuver--how deflect the end time? but we have no choice--the end is always now--we are here and not here. language means what it says and what it says may mean little. it writes the animal. it erases the animal. we who know a few years of life, who fill an eternity with non-being, are no more or less than the living dead. when we dance on our grave we sense the heartbreak of the dance, its flourish full empty, and beautiful. to uncover the skeleton of language is no doubt museum material--but poetry must wear its flesh

the symbology of beauty, or beautiful symbology (which makes more sense?), governed by social/political/historical/philosophical forces--governed, but not entirely accounted for by these events. sensation still navigates the space between language and the feral which escapes history. clearly our experience is impure (thus the response to beauty names its absence, in time, in our longings) since our selves, those impulse tracking stations, are written by language. such ideation no doubt achieves critical mass in its naming and recognition. there exists, however, a chemical component, a primeval runway without which the idea may or may not fly, but the visceral experience gets permanently grounded. nevertheless the objectification of sensation as beauty acquires meaning for us within the relational semiotic field--its parameters culturally determined. "no ideas but in things"? no metaphysical dimension behind the symbol wall? in the main, yes. without words
the "beautiful thing"
escapes our
re-cognition
it remains
un-signed

within
we may
sense it
only
as

the distance

 

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