Monthly Archives: May 2012

Reclaiming Rape

Writers can be selfish about words. We hoard them, we cherish them; the best of us even abuse them. Our most fierce desire is for our words to hold some power. It is a known secret that words themselves hold no force; power is engineered by construction, by setting and moment.

 

In the recent past, swear words were deemed exceptional because of their inappropriacy. At present, there are people in the United Kingdom campaigning for the legal right to insult and be insulted. The existence of these laws  is testimony to the lasting heritage of our shared language. In basic semiotic terms, a word is a signifier, pointing towards a signified. Together, the signifier and signified make a sign. When a signifier no longer points to a recognised signified, context is lost. Verbs like ‘fuck’ are the easiest prey for removal from context. ‘Fuck’ is a Swiss Army Knife, made for punctuating, stressing and stabbing into the audience’s attention. But ultimately, ‘fuck’ lost its shock value.

 

It is my fear that the term ‘rape’ is heading in a similar direction. Losing ‘fuck’ is no casualty for language. Its origins are in the sexual act, and sex should not be scandalised in a liberal age. Rape however, must be. Rape is a specific type of abuse. It is the most heinous assault that one human can inflict on another, both psychologically and physically.

 

Rape therefore, cannot be allowed to slip into a casual lexicon. The familiar term, ‘frape’ – short for ‘Facebook Rape’ – is harmless, but it perpetuates something far more sinister. It implies a culture that has come to terms with the concept and action of raping. Equating the violation of a human being with a juvenile prank has the potential to level off and nullify the signification of the initial term.

 

Rape is an action that goes mostly unreported, untreated and overlooked. I fear that the systematic usage of terms like ‘fraping’ can only accentuate this ghastly statistic. When a term is made acceptable, it becomes harder to take seriously. It becomes commonplace. It can become categorised as humour. The acceptance of rape cannot be allowed. It is not something that ‘just happens’. It is not something that begins and ends. Rape is both avoidable and preventable and is something that needs to be discussed and acknowledged in serious terms.

 

Online privacy is a miasma. Every tweet and status is a literature designed for sharing. This streamed generation of content is beyond mental filtering and comes at such an incessant barrage that it can be difficult to pick out any relevant information. This is doubly complicated where there are authorial issues. If one leaves their Facebook open, how can one be held responsible for their authorial title?

 

This article is not designed to condemn the action of ‘fraping’, nor does it expect to overhaul the mind-set of a liberalised generation of free speakers. Instead, I ask the reader to take responsibility for their words. Terms like rape are charged with a power beyond contextualisation. Rape cannot be rationally justified, and by abusing the term, you are unconsciously doing just that.

Very Nice, Very Nice (1961) – Arthur Lipsett

Created by Arthur Lipsett (Canadian, 1936–1986), Very Nice, Very Nice (1961) is a disjointed collage of sound, personal photographs, magazine clippings, and fragments of moving image that Lipsett collected during his employment at the Canadian National Film Board, where he worked between 1958 and 1978. Lipsett has been described as the “hyper-anxious William Blake of cinema,” [1] and he said of the film himself: “It was initially a sound experiment – purely for the love of placing one sound after another.” [2] Very Nice, Very Nice was nominated for an Academy Award in 1962 in the Best Live Action Short category.

Stanley Kubrick described Very Nice, Very Nice as “one of the most imaginative and brilliant uses of the movie screen and soundtrack that I have ever seen,” [3] and asked Lipsett to direct a trailer for Dr. Strangelove (1964). Lipsett declined the offer, but Kubrick’s own work on the trailer shows the influence of Very Nice, Very Nice.

Lipsett’s subsequent films THX-1138 and 21-87 also had a major effect on Star Wars creator George Lucas, who noted in an interview, “there’s no one better than Arthur Lipsett.” [4]

A new biography of Lipsett, Do Not Look Away, was released this year in Canada, and was written by Amelia Does (who also worked in Remembering Arthur, a 2006 documentary about the artist).

You can see more of Lipsett’s films in high res over at the National Film Board of Canada.

A love affair: Tom Waits and John Baldessari

I have the distinct feeling that this will make you smile, if you know what’s good for you.

The Siting of Nostalgia

Nostalgia is an emotive term. One may feel nostalgic, something can evoke nostalgia. The word itself sounds medical; its etymology is Greek, a compound for ‘home coming’ and ‘ache’. This origin evokes the physicality of the term. Nostalgia has place and location. Nostalgia is sited in a memorable and recent past.

I am coming to the end of a three-year, undergraduate degree. My peer group are flinging the term ‘nostalgia’ about in reckless abandon. They’re nostalgic about being single, they’re nostalgic about loud and long nights, they’re nostalgic about anything that could pass as a formative experience, educational or otherwise. Beyond this, they’re nostalgic in the true spirit of the term, nostalgic for their childhoods. This is repeatedly evidenced by various fancy dress events, Facebook posts about cartoons and 32bit video games. It seems that there’s a need to be nostalgic. Nostalgia is desirable and affordable.

I can only be presumptuous enough to speak on behalf of my own generation, so I will note that since adolescence, I have lived within (what I am terming as) a ‘culture of nostalgia’. Childhood, and particularly the 90s have been phrased to me as something of a promised land, where culture was at a glorious peak.

There is some sense to this. As was the case for most of the western world, the 90s in Britain was (for the most part) a time of economic prosperity. For the first time in modern history, Europe was at (a relative) peace. Charity became a matter of public importance. The culture industry was booming. From 1997, New Labour funded cultural regeneration projects across the country for a post-industrial age. Service industries rose along with the computer. The Blair government promised ‘education, education, education.’ We were told that we could be anything we wanted to be. As Noah Cicero put it, the worst thing that happened in the 90s was when Bill Clinton got a blowjob.

It is no coincidence that our nostalgia is focused on a period of hyper-rapid technological development and economic promise. The 90s are something of a diametric opposite to the reality of my graduation. I am entering a working climate where I would be lucky to receive any level of employment. The 90s promised that boom and bust had been stopped. We bust anyway. Nostalgia presents itself as the purest and most socially approved form of escapism.

Now, the most visible television personalities on the BBC and ITV have graduated from their roles as 90s children’s television presenters.

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Musicians are praised for their ability to evoke nostalgia.

Movies only two decades old are being remastered in 3D and branded as vehicles of nostalgia.

Election campaigns promise a cocktail of ‘change’ along with ‘a return to traditional values’.

This phenomenon of 90s related nostalgia is made available, prevalent and insistent because of the technological revolution. During the 90s, cameras and video became affordable. Culture was retained like never before. Much 90s culture is now available through the internet. Youtube offers an unrivaled form of dissemination for nostalgia. In many ways, the internet is the home of my generation and nostalgia is our ‘home coming’.

I find myself buying in to the culture of nostalgia with a grim self-awareness. I find myself buying in because there’s no alternative. I find myself buying in because Pokemon might well still rule. I find myself buying in because in a digital age, the 90s might end up being the only decade I ever really got a chance to truly experience in any traditional sense.

PAWS

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I’m not sure how long at this point Pete Toms has been working on his graphic novel Paws.  Perhaps a year and a half?  Two years?  However long it is, I have been trying to get people I know to read it for that long. I own Toms’ print-on-demand comic, Pink Tombs of Youth, and it is fantastic, but Paws is clearly his most ambitious (and most impressive) thing yet.  I am by no means an eloquent critic of the things I read, and so I will just leave it at this: I really, really love this book.  It is not yet completely finished, but he has a good chunk of it over at his website and is posting new pages as he makes them at his tumblr. You should read it.

Notes on Submissions, Editorial Process, Loving Stampedes

It’s that time of the year (Monday, April 7th), and we’ve been throwing ourselves into the submissions pile for Artifice 5 with abandon. Here are a few things we’ve been noticing, w/r/t all that, both about our editorial process as well as our submissions:

1. We mentioned this on Facebook earlier, but dang, y’all, poetry is killing it this time around. We’re waiting for fiction writers to step up.

2. Specifically, we’re waiting to open up that one submission that turns out to be a fiction submission that we realize we love like we’ve never loved anything on a page before. We want that to happen SO BAD right now.

3. Particularly fiction that does something interesting with the space of the page.  Fiction that requires us to worry about how we’re going to lay it out. In the best of cases, maybe, fiction that we don’t even want to accept, because we know what a pain-in-the-ass layout’s going to be, except that of course we will accept it, because it is so wonderful.

4. Re: poetry. We tend to really go for multiple poems that are part of a larger project. (See, for example, the Kent Leatham poems in Issue 2, available for preview here.)

5. So far we have accepted: a drama written by artificial intelligence; a memo from the Regrets Office; a loving stampede; and at least one exception. So we’re probably good for those.

Though we’re always up for reading more exceptions.

The many splendored sites of Jason Foumberg.

Critic and Newcity Arts Editor Jason Foumberg has been busy lately in Chicago. Over the last few weeks he’s unveiled two new creative “curios” sites as well as a snazzy new personal website designed by the talented Ryan Swanson.

Foumberg’s personal site, a portfolio of sorts, is the cleanest and most well-organized website that a writer that could ever wish for.

My advice: take some presentation tips from this, oh ye electronically fractured pushers of pens. If you’re offering your writing en mass to the public, make sure it’s easy to navigate, simple, and direct.

Rainbow Vomit is exactly what you’d expect, but still hilarious.

Michelangelo (1475–1564). Pieta Rondanini (unfinished) 1564.

End Piece is a poignant collection of the last works of many great modern and contemporary artists, often left unfinished. If you have suggestions for End Piece, or you’ve found a great last work, you can contact Foumberg here.

Foumberg—who has an incredible, wide-ranging grasp of artists making interesting work in Chicago—recently released this year’s picks for Newcity‘s Breakout Artists, which is definitely worth a read. He and Ryan Swanson are collaborating on writing/designing a few upcoming exhibition catalogue projects, and be sure to keep a sharp (stink-) eye out for Foumberg’s forthcoming chapbook, Where the Trees Smell Like Semen.

Selections from #poetry

The first in a series of posts where I post links to things I found because they were tagged #poetry on tumblr.

People, and Where You Can Find Them

Metonymically speaking, of course.

Artifice 1 contributor Joel Patton and EXITS ARE evil-genius Mike Meginnis both have work up in the new Red Lightbulbs.

ILK Issue 3 features work by Josh Kleinberg and Artifice blogger Russ Woods.

Michael Czyzniejewski is the featured writer at Ninth Letter. He also got a pretty sweet write-up in the Chicago Reader, and we’ve heard rumors involving the Tribune.

Oh man oh man oh man. Erin Fitzgerald and Kirsty Logan both have chapbooks in the anthology Shut Up / Look Pretty, and we just read them, and are they good, yes they are.

While we’re on the topic of books: Brian Oliu’s Level End is now available for order from Origami Zoo Press. Oliu’s been tearing it up recently: his collection So You Know It’s Me came out like a second ago, and his chapbook Come See for Yourself was included in the anthology The Fullness of Everything.

xTx and William Walsh both have work in April’s The Collagist.

Christopher Phelps has work forthcoming in The Kenyon Review, New York Quarterly, and Boston Review, among other places. (Plus not to mention a publication-to-come in Artifice 5.)

Blogger Meghan Lamb has this story about Janey Smith up at Pangur Ban Party that’s so awesome we don’t even need to tell you about it, because you’ve probably already read it.

And speaking of, Janey Smith has work up at My Name Is Mud, along with Artifice 4 contrib Richard Chiem.

Artifice blogger Matt Rowan has work up at Necessary Fiction.

Would you like to see a short movie? Dia Felix and Erin Wilson’s adaptation of “Fall 2010: A Recent/Relevant Booklist,” which screened at the Artifice 4 release, is up on Vimeo.

the poetics of texting, part I

hi. my name is meghan lamb and i am bad at blogs.

i really dislike tumblr. i really dislike twitter. i find them overwhelming and overstimulating. i find it very difficult to experience the kinds of information exchanges i find most satisfying using these media.

of the same merit, however, i don’t want to represent myself as someone who has a particular philosophy or judgment regarding these media. according to okcupid tests (haha, see what i did there,) this stems from a deep-seated part of my personality.

(i used to think it was “deep-seeded,” not “deep-seated,” and i still like it better that way, to be honest.) Continue reading