February 20, 2005

Text - the manifesto

The Text catalogue arrives back from the Italian printers this week, care of a fine design by Alan Ward (Axis Design). A few thoughts on the book, written before Christmas last year:

It separates itself from the world 'phenomenologically' - the cover represents the world outside with its Manchester street scene. The whole text is in inverted commas. But of course this isn’t possible, once inside layers of symbols, text and reference accrue again. The first being that it is modeled on another text - John Cage’s The Future of Music: Credo (from Silence). This was partially because the Text needs a manifesto now as contemporary music did then. Having decided to replicate Cage’s structure some time after having read it, I returned to re-read and discover he had done what everyone who has ever written a manifesto does: he attacks the current state of things, points out the direction that new things are (likely) going and waxes lyrical as to why that will be better. But the final future is actually only a humanistic principle, the manifesto can’t prefigure itself, its promised future. The Text book reiterates the questions of the festival:

From advertising to road signs, from global
branding to digital communications, text
forms the visual and linguistic background
to everyone’s existence.
Once poets were seen as developers of
language and ideas, the creators of new
ways of thinking and expressing, but now
they are seen as irrelevant; condemned
as copy-writers, radio clowns or curriculum support.
When written word and sign consumes and
clutters virtually every environment, how
can poets and text artists create new
meaning with language? What are the
innovations and devices that can progress
the tradition of poetic innovation?

The analysis of the current bankruptcy of the mainstream is implicit in the question. So what are the elements of the future? In the catalogue, as in the contextual first exhibition opening on 19 March, I identify 5 text practices common to linguistically innovative art: Parataxis, Intertextuality, materiality, spatialisation, and restricted languages (ie process/system writing).

So far, no-one has proposed a sixth element in this Glass Bead Game; although I have had a criticism that it is too American in its source referencing. This is partially true because Official Verse Culture has done such a good job at atomizing the alternative in Britain, but it does miss the comparisons with French/German OULIPO which offers another possibility ignored in these shores.

As with all manifestos, ultimately it will be a futile gesture but it is having a vision of a better future that brings it about.

No comments: