The Moment: Conceptualism and Resistance

The Witches Are Going To Their Sabbath by Luis Ricard Falero

A Happening

Two birds, flying East, hit the night

at 3 in the afternoon; stars came out

over the badlands, and the billowy

snowlands; they floundered on

resolving not to turn back in search

of lost afternoon; continuing

through cotton wilderness

Denise Levertov

I’m actually really tired of the conceptual versus lyrical debate. But I’m still heavily invested in it because I’ve learned so much from both camps. They’re camps that move forward if the tensions are in good condition and out of that they progress. I’ve been thinking on Newton’s Second Law whereupon “the acceleration of an object as produced by a net force is directly proportional to the magnitude of the net force, in the same direction as the net force, and inversely proportional to the mass of the object.” Using that logic works in favour of creating mutual solutions in arguments. You defend your point, you listen, and then you agree to see the positive points and discard the flaws in each other’s responses. Then you move forward, or rather, no one wins or walks away, but you both move forward. Of course Marie Curie says it best: “I was taught that the way of progress was neither swift nor easy,”ie. things aren’t always simple.

I’ve been keeping a keen eye on the arguments against conceptualism as a symptom of capitalism. I can see where that argument can be made. In rendering James Joyce texts in my work, I am taking advantage of the free market that his public words offer me. However, I’m transcribing. I do display Joyce’s work by mixing it with other works or rearrange his words to shine a different light on them. It’s empowered me as a heavy reader ofUlysses to gather a new appreciation for the man’s work. In transcribingUlysses by hand, I’m creating a living and ongoing moment with Joyce’s text. I enjoy it immensely.

In my This Is Room 101 project, I mixed Orwell’s 1984 with headlines stories of the Wall Street Journal. The work itself was very non-sensical. Yet I found spontaneous meaning scattered throughout it. Ongoing international revolutions were mixed with integral parts of Orwell’s text, showing a predictable synchronicity. It’s fascinating to me. In the Wall Street project, where I created found poetry out of the journal, a created a sonnet out of the evil looking power morcellator. None of these works, however (as far as I know), benefitted anyone, but myself, intellectually, that is. I haven’t made any money from it. They made me a better poet, a better critic and in that regard, I hope to give back one day.

I do a lot of lyrical work and that’s the way I started creating. Words that were given to me by my parents, by my school, and by everything that influences me, made me into the writer I am today. Today those words are questioned. Where did this language come from? It came from conquistadors, conquerors, enslavers, and a school system that is still very blind to the people it teaches. The language also comes from my mother, my father, the land that birthed them, and the people whose blood runs through my veins, that were made extinct by the same people that taught them the new language. Chibcha is the language of the natives in Colombia. It is taught to a small population of students in Cota, Colombia. It is an extinct language.

So when I read people quoting white men, white women, teachers of the conquering language, in favor of killing conceptual work, it’s hypocritical to me. To kill oppressor, one must really obliterate them, but where do we go from there? The poet is the world’s unpaid politician. Do we cling on to capitalism? Do we run to communism? Do we call for anarchy? All the -isms have been done and tried and were birthed by a conquering people. Where are the solutions beyond this new lack of language and lack of new politics?

As we sit hear raging and outraging towards one aspect of poetics, where are the people screaming about the lack of people that look like the general population in literature awards? Where are the people that are supposed to be defending our right to be listening and teaching our children international poetics? The ghazals, the sagas, the beautiful forms and rhythms in slam poetry? Yes, slam poetry. A world of orators that most of the Western world still doesn’t “get.” Why? Because it isn’t white? Because it doesn’t live up to the standards of “classical-this-is-how-it-has-always-been” poetry teaching techniques? What of the female driven oral cultures? What of the stories and rhythms passed on from father to child in the desert, jungles, and places and times without the master?

Do I stop conceptualizing if someone tells me to? Hell, no. This is how it all started to begin with, with one person telling another how they should and should not do things. Words belong to the people. Words help the individual speak. The only rule for me is to create with compassion, even if it is out of anger or love, compassion and understanding. Rage on, destroy, and create. Lyrically, conceptually, or whatever the future brings. Just think about it while you create. Analyze it. Shed new lights on it. Progress.

This conversation isn’t over. My own thinking, rendering, and analyzing of the world will never be over.

Resist I must — I must resist
In the hope of deliverance.
There is a living seed in water
That shall become a towering tree.

– Simin Behbahāni

I am grateful. From now on, I fight, I will rage, I will create with my words now stronger than ever.


EDIT: It’s very important for me to note this and emphasize this.


 No one cares about art criticism: Advocating for an embodiment of the avant garde as an alternative to capitalism

by STEVEN COTTINGHAM in the Temporary Art Review

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s