Friday, 26 July 2013

If I was going to be Dr McKerrow, this is how I would have got it

Here is/was the PhD outline I submitted in 2008, when I thought that was what I was going to be doing. I'd be Dr McKerrow by now (maybe), but instead I'm a wannabe teen author. How did that happen?

Anyway, when I look at it now it seems limited in terms of artistic references - there are so many more people working around these subject now - but still, it's interesting, and may help those of you who actually ARE doing a PhD in a similar thoughtwave, or, if not - it still has a pretty interesting bibliography.

Avant-garde poets and live artists using spiritual practices as processes / the relationship between spiritual and avant-garde artistic/poetic discourses and practice

Jackson MacLow: “Remember that the main motivation for using procedures of any kind is the Buddhist one of loosening and lessening the domination - in effect, the hegemony – of the artist’s ego,” – in Digital Poetics, the Making of E-Poetries, Loss Pequeno Glazier, p49

"...people inhabiting all frequencies of the socioeconomic spectrum are intentionally reaching for some of the oldest navigational tools known to humankind: sacred ritual and metaphysical speculation, spiritual regimen and natural spell." Erik Davis, Techgnosis: Myth, Magic and Mysticism in the Age of Information, (London: Serpent's Tail, 1999)

I am interested in avant-garde poets and artists using spiritual practice as artistic processes, and the under-explored relationship between spiritual and avant-garde artistic discourses, with additional reference to digital poetics and cybertheory. I aim to structure the work chronologically from 1960 onwards.

I intend to highlight a similarity between the marginality of the avant-garde in live art and poetry and the marginality of spirituality in the postmodern society. I will suggest that both modes of attempting to access transcendence via alternative methods are/have been marginalised in society but now may be entering the mainstream, thus citing my study in a historical continuum of the development of received modes of spirituality and artistic expression.

Chapter Outlines:

1.       Clarification of terms, outline of main questions to be addressed in the work

-          What do the use of particular spiritual processes by artists (meditation; ritual; clairvoyance; chanting; visualisation) lend to poetic language and live art?
-          How do these processes transcend, or aim to transcend, the ego of the artist/writer?
-          How does artistic/poetic practice correspond with magical (i.e practical spiritual) practice?
-          How does the avant-garde engage with spirituality? What are their dis/similar aims and values? E.g. the holistic versus the fragmented?
-          How are post-1950 avant-garde poetics informed by or have reference to traditional (ie Judeao-Christian, Buddhist etc) or non-traditional (mystical; qabalistic; angelic) spiritual discourses?
-          Definition of terms – ritual, shamanism, meditation, Zen, clairvoyance, divination, chanting, avant-garde, magical, astral, trance.

2.       1960 to 1970 – Shamanism and the Counterculture Appeal of Zen

-          Joseph Beuys and shamanism – “the healing power of art and the power of universal human creativity” - How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare and Eurasia

-          Jerome Rothenberg and the retrieval of existing/historical cultures’ shamanistic writing; interest in the power of religious/spiritual writing as poetry in Technicians of the Sacred

-          Structure of the World Compared to a Bubble and Iovis – Anne Waldman’s Buddhist poetry and the philosophy of the Buddhist Naropa School of Disembodied Poetics; William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg; the New York School’s relationship to Buddhism.

-          “Being in the moment” – poetry trying to capture the Zen sense of presence – Leslie Scalapino, Tim Atkins, Peter Jaeger.

3.       1970 to 1980 – Ritualistic Personal Journeys and Experiences

-          Growing popularity of Goddess spirituality inspired by works such as Starhawk’s The Spiral Dance reflected in live art using text and poetic work. Joan La Barbara and vocal modulation – sound poems – speaking in tongues.
-          Linda Montano – Chakraphonics, Seven Spiritual Lives of Linda Montano and Mitchell’s Death – use of sound, colour, energy centres, ritual and a personal spiritual journey
-          Faith Wilding – Imago Femina - spiritual qualities of female existence
-          Clairvoyance and the fragmentation of the “I” in poetic language - Hannah Weiner’s Astral Visions, Clairvoyant Journal and The Fast
-          Susan Hiller and automatic writing – Sisters of Menon
-          Carolee Schneeman’s Interior Scroll – Goddess worship, ritual, the unity of spirit and flesh.

4.       1980 to 1990 – Ritual and Transcendence; The Body and the Mind

-          The rite of divination - Susan Hiller – Belshazzar’s Feast
-          Ritualistic use of pain/meditation methods to transcend the body - Marina Abramovic, Gina Pane
-          Hermann Nitsch and the Orgies Mystery Theater – cathartic Dionysian use of ritual; Diamanda Galas’ Plague Mass as a reaction to AIDS and the function of language in ritualistic live art; the function of language in magical ritual with reference to the qabalah.

5.       1990 to present – The Astral and Cyberspace; The Body and Energy

-          Stelarc’s ideal cybernetic body versus the theory and practice of a holistic energy body; explorations of dis/embodiment in digital/page-based poetics and live art with reference to the work of Barbara Brennan, Reiki and Energy Healing.
-          The connections between the philosophy and practical existence of cyberspace and the characteristics of the astral in spiritual philosophy, and the practical experience of astral projection.

Conclusion and summary of research

Basic bibliography

Preciptations: Contemporary American Poetry as Occult Practice, Devin Johnston
Modernist Alchemy: Poetry and the Occult, Timothy Materer
Literary Modernism and the Occult Tradition, Surette and Tryphonopoulos
Imaginary Language, eds. Rasula and McCaffery
Life Through the Screen, Sherry Turkle
How We Became Posthuman, N Katherine Hayles
“Blood and Beauty” in But Is It Art?, Cynthia A Freeland
Technicians of the Sacred: A Range of Poetries from Africa, America, Asia, Europe and Oceania, Jerome Rothenberg
Concerning the Spiritual in Art – Wassily Kandinsky
The Celestial Tradition: A Study of Ezra Pound’s The Cantos, Demetres P Tryphonopoulos
Telling it Slant: Avant-Garde Poetics of the 1990s
“Rethinking Hierarchy: Buddhist Tenets in the Work of Anne Waldman” – Laura Bardwell
Earth Air Fire and Water, Coward-McCann;
Rising Tides, Simon & Schuster;
Joan La Barbara – vocal artist
Shaman Woman, Mainline Lady, William Morrow
Structure of the World Compared to a Bubble – Anne Waldman
Erik Davis, Techgnosis: Myth, Magic and Mysticism in the Age of Information, (London: Serpent's Tale, 1999)
Esotericism, Art and Imagination - Edited by Arthur Versluis, Lee Irwin, John Richards, and Melinda Weinstein -
Interactive realism – the poetics of cyberspace – Daniel Downes

The Parallels Almanac - – Nicholas Taylor: 

Friday, 12 July 2013

Spoila Magazine

Serious treatments of the interactions between the arts and the occult / magic / spirituality are cropping up everywhere - once again, I'm ahead of the curve :). The second magazine of note is Jessa Crispin (of Bookslut)'s Spoila Magazine. I've just purchased the PDF copy for $5, that is, about £3.50, which seems eminently affordable. I've ordered Issue 2: The Black Magic Issue (wooooohhh!) which I haven't read yet (glass of wine, bath, Kindle, LATER) but it looks great. Contents include an interview with poet Jeannine Hall Gailey, who I haven't heard of, but whose work deals with fairy tale and mythology. A shame we're not still running New Fairy Tales otherwise we could have nagged her to submit.

I don't know for sure, but I sense that the material in Spoila will be about magic as subject rather than spiritual practice - which isn't a bad thing, just a less unusual thing. There is, after all, a proliferation of artistic work about witches/fairies/wizards/magic/magick/gnomes/elves/mermaids etc etc. I'm glad there is, obviously (not least because I'm hoping my teen novel about witches will be successful with a publisher) - it's good for people to explore the hidden and mysterious, even just in fictive forms, even if they never progress past fantasy - I'm just more interested in artistic work that investigates spiritual practices.

However, I think Spoila is good because it has an intelligent editorial policy. The more intelligent attention magic and the occult gets, the better; it's as interesting at the level of literary and cultural criticism as it is for the spiritual wayfarer or mystic.