Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Tate Shaw and I discuss artists' books, the road and everything else in this interview-style article scheduled to appear in the next issue of Journal of Artists' Books (JAB). Entitled Highway 24 Unvisited: Reeling Between the Road and Artists' Books from Toledo to Kansas City we exchange ideas about road literature the defining condition of visual literature in our times and its influence on artists' book. The discussion comes out of the recent release of my artist's book SprawlCode and touches on related issues such as generative literature, metaphors of navigation, and the cognitive sense of books. The Journal of Artists' Book is the premier critical journal in the field of artists' books with Brad Freeman, Elisabeth Long, Clifton Meador, Tony White on the editorial board.
Afterimage, a special issue on the creative possibilities of archives edited by David Brittain (one of the foremost authorities on small press photography magazines). My essay chronicles several distinct ventures in grappling creatively with the more-than one million street vendor photographs in the Joseph Selle collection: An exhibition at the University of California, Davis curated by Andrew Eskind and Renny Pritigin; a video work titled 17523 Pictures by David Mount, and an artist's book, Two of Us by Elisabeth Tonnard. Each experiment is alike in pointing out the vexing instability of very-large-collection artifacts, and like very-large numbers in mathematics, these collections operate according to an entirely different logic than institutional picture collections of conventional scale. These projects are a lead in to a visionary project for the future: a monumental mural of over one million photography erected in San Francisco.
I recently chaired and presented on a panel at the annual conference of the Society for Literature, Science and Art in Portland, ME, November 4-7, 2007.
Our panel investigated the theoretical potential of Norbert Wiener's concept of the "operative image" as a linking structure in philosophy, material science, and art. Wiener proposes this puzzling category of image in his God and Golem, Inc (1964) in relationship to his broad concerns with machine learning, machine reproduction and the place of machines in society. His meditations appearing in God and Golem, Inc (1964) have religious and ethical sweep and hint at a number of techologically mediated roles for the image in thought and world-making.
My visually illustrated presentation analyzed this problematic convergence of the operative image and disordered time and draws implications for the field of visual studies. I concluded by advocating the continued relevance of visual studies to computer culture on the basis of operative image-language machines.
I am presenting of the panel, Reframing the New Topographics Movement, at the College Art Association conference in Dallas, Texas, February 20-23. The panel, chaired by John Rohrbach, Senior Curator of Photographs at the Amon Carter Museum, is designed to reassess this influential movement in terms of the larger visual economy of the period. My paper looks at the ironies touched of by new topographics that are still at play today as photography enters the age of the digital arts, visualization technologies, and hybrid geographies.
The manuscript preparation phase of our book project, Image Process Literature, was funded by Literature Program of the New York State Council for the Arts. The anthology, co-edited with Elisabeth Tonnard, Tate Shaw and Kris Merola, assembles the latest graphic writing on new directions in visual literature. Our aim is to bring together the work of writers, theorists, visual artists and poets who question the status of literature in a media soaked world – literature as we see it being processed by visual culture. We have an impressive range of authors interested in contributing: Jan Baetens (Belgium); David Tomas (Montreal); Alisia Chase (Rochester); David Brittain (London); Greg Ulmer (Gainesville).
My book was released last spring and is currently available through the publishers Preacher's Biscuit Books. According to their press release:
Chris Burnett has been wrestling with language in relation to places since the early 1990's. Over time, he developed a software that enabled him to make pictures of places out of bodies of texts. For Burnett, these word-pictures "form a patter, a linguistic snapshot of sprawl...an unruly growth principle, interlinking the edges of city and highway, story and image, computer code and text." SprawlCode:descriptions is his most comprehensive statement to date. It is an enigmatic manual that brings together over 350 descriptions of sprawl in 14 separate chapters with an illuminating preface and image index.
I continue to work on my series of imagetext prints, "Picture Stories." Reading them is somewhat like encountering in a car windshield an elaborate image in the shape of words. The most recent pieces cast verbal shadows against everyday landscapes of urban sprawl.